Amaryllis

How can you be so tense and serious,
Dear Amaryllis; don’t you know the only way to bloom
Is not with shoulders up, hands balled, arms trussed,
But through two far-flung arms like sunlight’s starry plumes?

Just as a flower may reveal its face
And spreads its light into a soul-lit place,
It opens in a field of blackened space
To wrap it all into a bright embrace–

All but the bud. No light can reach inside
A fist of folded arms and face cast into stone
And overcast with shade, as if to hide
The very thing that should be shown and should have shone–

Oh Amaryllis! much have you abused:
Aurora’s gift of beauty never used,
Prometheus’ sacrifice refused,
Apollo abandoned–you stand accused

Of killing off the very thing you are,
Like weeds that choke the life from their own sprouting seeds;
Some suicide, self-fratricide, bizarre
Oblivion, the price of which is paid by me,

The one who wished to witness that beauty,
The one who always dreamed what it would be,
The one who only just wanted to see
Your flower blooming, petals light and free.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Off the Page

“Why don’t you write me something beautiful,”
She breathed, her question hot across my neck,
Her fingers tracing something suitable
Along my chest, like signing for a check.

The hair that framed her face played over mine
As she explained “like, something from a movie:
Moonlight reflected on a glass of wine
As starlight lovers dine in secrecy,

“Or maybe flowers from a bought bouquet
Still fresh, despite the dusty sill beneath;
Write something beautiful and far away
For me,” she said, and sighed herself to sleep.

I only saw the streetlight through the blinds,
On her, and writing wasn’t on my mind.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Published in: on March 31, 2012 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Group Therapy

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Group Therapy

A single burning lamp ahead, a shadowed hand behind;
The candle may have lit his face, but wrapped around his mind,
The shadow sent its tendrils in–the dark fruit of that vine
Had planted seeds inside his head that grew on teary brine.

Connected to that shadow-claw was yet another man
Who gripped a plastic bottle in his shade-reflected hand
With doses of forgetfulness–a memory per gram–
While inside fighting demons of his self-turned reprimand.

And all around the two of them were men like glass in stain:
All colored, fractured fragments of a broken window pane,
Which bore a jagged, splintered edge, but none of them the same,
As they had been transfigured since they broke from all the pain.

But in that shaky candlelight, beneath their private shade,
What no one seemed to notice was the picture that it made:
With everyone as jagged glass so carefully displayed,
A stained glass of a hopeful dream was finally portrayed.

Observers to this fateful scene were few and far between,
For everyone who gathered there were after their lost dream.
Not even I escaped their cry–the rape of therapy:
That shadow-hand was in command, and next in line was me.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Published in: on December 2, 2011 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tennessee Williams and You

So I’ve been watching a large number of Tennessee Williams plays recently. I figured I may as well sooner or later, being part of a University whose theater department is funded on half his estate. My analysis, for the most part, is such: he is a terrible playwright. Not terrible in the unskilled way; he was extremely capable in my opinion. No, he is a terrible playwright in how his plays portray consistently terrible situations, usually with no clear resolve at the end. His players are losers who continue to lose, and his scenarios are bad and only getting worse. In all honesty, why would one ever go to watch one of them in the first place? After every single one of his plays I have seen put on, I have been left with a sinking hole in my heart reminding me of the despair of the human race. It is not exactly comforting.

It is, however, beautiful. I cannot describe why, but the characters–even in the midst of their despair–present a rare insight into the greatest part of the human condition (if played well, of course). I must say that, while I do enjoy comedy, it has never moved me half as well as a good tragedy. Perhaps another part of this human condition is a fatal attraction towards drama, tragedy, and ill-fortune–kind of like how one cannot help but stare at a car crash in the making or why public hanging became so popular that it was eventually outlawed. Perhaps, as my brother has suggested, tragedy becomes so popular because the audience lives vicariously through the play and are reminded to their relief how their life isn’t. Perhaps we are in love with emotional trauma, and good ol’ Williams knows just how to serve it. God help us, though: we are misery junkies, and God help me, I am hooked on Tennessee Williams’ plays. Gimme my fix, Blanche DuBois: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

But this is all tangential to my poem-post. If blogging is the food of thought, then here would be the main course:

To Her Sad Condition

O terminal affection, unconditional disease,
To her you’re no infection, but a love she cannot leave.
I’ve seen your wretched smile and I’ve seen your toxic grin
Stretched between her ears, but in a curl ’round her chin.

From there your agents whisper to her all-too willing ears
Bitter sweetened nothings that she made herself to hear.

Meanwhile, through her smile, down her throat, and in her chest,
You lie in cradled comfort as she holds you near her breast—
Dear cancer, how you hold her back! O hands around her heart!
Squeezing warmer blood away until it falls apart,

You cannot just be cut away; that treatment’s surely wrong,
For when the surgeon pulls you out, her heart would go along.

There’s no abusive manacles who make her stay this way,
And nothing forced her starry eyes within a weary gaze,
But Tragic Touch, Lamenting Love, I know you made her smile!
If music be the food of love, then yours would be the bile!

Despite her sad condition, though, she still insists she’s glad:
She wore your wretched smile ’cause it’s the best she’ll ever have.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Labors of Writing

I’ve never believed in “writer’s block.” That seems to me to be a phrase invented by amateur writers as an excuse for not being able to think of anything clever to say. The professional writer or poet can write on demand, on potentially any subject.

That being said, I’ve had “writer’s block” for a while now. The problem I had with trying to write recently is that I could never find a subject to write about, or say any clever things about it. As I said, writer’s block is simply an excuse.

My sister once told me when I asked about her amazing artwork that drawing itself is insubstantial. Anyone can draw. The biggest obstacle to any art, however, is finding out what to draw. Well no, sister, if drawing itself were insubstantial, my horridly disproportioned doodles would sell as masterpieces and I’d at least be able to make a living off of selling portraits on the street for ten bucks apiece. Sounds like abstract modern art–which brings up an interesting question: how can erratic splashes of paint on a canvas sell more than street artists’ work?

Recently, I attended a day-long clown workshop with the rest of my clown class under Catherine…something or other. I should probably know her name, since I may run into her again, being in the acting profession, but I’m terrible with things like that. Regardless, we did several workshopesque activities with an underlying lesson in clown to each of them (it was based in a particular school of clown but I’m still terrible with names–something starting with a “C” I think). It was very fun, mind opening, enjoyable, etc. but there was one lesson that stuck out above the rest of them: things themselves aren’t as important as the value we place on them. It doesn’t matter if a clown is holding a dead cockroach in a tissue; if he sees it as the most precious thing in the world then the audience will usually see it in the same way. If it’s a good clown.

The labors of writing, the labors of art, the labors of anything, then, aren’t in the things themselves, but in the value we place in it. The colored squares on a white canvas, the so-called masterpieces of earlier times, and even a child’s finger painting are all art because the artists created them with a gleam of the stars in their eyes, and if anyone looking at them can catch just a glimpse of what the artist saw, then it is surely something truly beautiful. This is what we people all crave–what we all innately desire: those starry eyes that can’t help but see beauty in everything. The dogs content with simply rolling in the sun and the cats chasing manipulated wisps of light both call to us in a primal, enticing way. We want this, these stars in our eyes so we too may see the world through the lenses of invention, discovery, and art, where nothing is dulldrum or repetitive or unenjoyable because they’re all cast under that cosmic glow that whispers to our nerves through our souls that everything is beauty and just a reflection of the aegis-mirror of our heart. And maybe this is why art is so varied, and even though there’s always someone better in skill, there’s no one better at showing what you saw when gazing into the spirit of the universe with the glow in your eyes speeding by at lightspeed, stopping only when your next masterpiece is done: because we do not make art, art makes us. We do not write or paint or sing to make money, but because something calls from within to explode back into the ever-changing shape of the static existence we’ve been part of for all our lives but still keep trying to figure out. Why not ask the stars? Try asking your eyes.

And so maybe this is why the free verse poems I have no taste for are so well received. Maybe Ezra Pound had more value in his work than I have for mine, or his readers see something not even he intended. I’ll never know the reason, but what I do know is that maybe what I’m writing has been thought a thousand times before, and maybe rhymes have gone stale because we’ve heard the same rhyming monosyllabic words too many times already, and maybe I’ll be another Ozymandias–challenging the world to look on my works when they’ve already blown away with the sands, but I’m blinded by my own shining eyes. I write because I must; because I am made by my own work, and try as I might to deny it, it cannot be ignored. I cannot stop writing, even if others stop reading.

So, in a roundabout way, there is no such thing as writer’s block. There is no writer’s block because true artists–hell, every one of us–are compelled to create. We are compelled to discover. We are compelled to see beauty in everything, or waste away trying to deny it, because the things themselves are not as important as the value we place in them. They are not as important as the value we see in them with our starry, cosmic, dreaming eyes.

And with that, a poem.

In Praise of the Puddle

Must every collection of water be deep?
A sip from the shallows is surely as sweet
As a drink from the well that seems to have steeped
In the same league of water that ocean gods sleep.

The deeper the water, the darker the sea;
The darker the water, the less you can see,
So puddles of water seem clearest to me:
They may not contain much, but that much is free.

The fathoms, however, all come at a price:
The deep and the darkness demand sacrifice,
So eddies will grab who the surface enticed
To drag them below to be burned into ice.

No avarice waits within shallower things:
They’re clear as your eyes and reflecting their dreams,
So look slightly closer–they’re not what they seem–
Reflections hold more than the deepest extreme.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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