A Piece of Quiet

To Jon C.

Singing a soft song, sitting on that burlap brown sofa.
Picking at the fabric pills, not bored. Engaged.
Bouncing my knee. Nervous like a cow who knows the calf is coming.
Last night’s sleep in an old blue sleeping bag. Whispers of friendship.
Confessions to the other students at the youth retreat. Little kindnesses. We are not a loud people.
When we sing, we hear each other’s harmonies.
Each voice treasured, like a piece of quiet, a part of the gentle whole.
Applause are honest praise but always brief.
In choir these voices fill the balcony with the pure melody of warmth.
They are not silent. They are full of music,
But they are a quiet people.

Rest.

Singing clear, soft a capella sitting on the burlap couch,
My closed eyes open, glide across the room.
White shirt crisp and blue-black tie in a half-Windsor,
Our balding, kind-faced teacher adjusts his glasses.
He begins to pray for us. Thirty-five teens,
People of faith from happy homes and sad,
Short and tall, from every high school within twenty miles.
We will not remember the words of his prayer. But
We will remember he prayed. That he was for us,
And his Lord is for us, and grants us peace and quiet.
He brought us music. Gave us time.
He lost sleep for us. Disciplined us with his kind basso voice.
Until we grew to discipline ourselves.
The gifts he gave his choir cannot be counted,
Cannot be measured on the audiometer he brought from work,
To show us the shapes our voices make when we sing.
Those of us sitting on those basement couches,
Listening as he prayed for us–some of us didn’t have two parents at home.
Didn’t have a lot of teachers on our side. But we had at least one teacher.

Rest.

King David writes he will sing for the Lord,
Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him.
When parents are missing, when tomorrow’s lunch isn’t in the fridge,
When the regular loneliness of adolescence holds us down,
It’s hard to see the bounty. But we could hear that teacher’s prayers.
I like to think he hoped for us before we could hope for ourselves.
When the Creator is quiet, loneliness bends our backs and sags our shoulders,
But we are a people of quiet strength. We have clear, soft songs to hold us up.
If the Lord chooses to whisper, we will still hear his piece of quiet.
We listen for his bounty, just like we listened to our teacher’s prayers.
After all, the song is not just note after note after note. The song is also the quiet in between.
There is music in a rest.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Opportunity

I came across this poem today in a book of poetry my grandfather gave me. It’s worth sharing.

“Opportunity” by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle’s edge,
And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–
That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this
Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

When Leaders Fail

Let’s look behind the door when leaders fail.
What will we find once we have pierced the veil,
And we’ve divined their sins behind their tale?
That they have whined with privileges male,
They kept us blind and hollered “Her email!”
The tyrants grind and hope our hope grows stale.
They act unkind, expecting us to pale.

I have a mind that will not quickly quail
When fetters bind or freedoms fly and fail.
When they were fined and banned and put in jail,
My fathers signed and fought by pen and nail
Till freedom shined where once injustice hailed.
What will we find once we have pierced the veil?
Let’s look behind the door when leaders fail.

Photograph by Alyssa Kibilosky.

 

Blatant Bribery! Free Sourcebook!

I’m an English teacher. It makes perfect sense that I’m starting a poetry podcast. And it makes perfect sense for me to support that podcast with a Patreon.

But Patreons grow slowly, and I want to give this one a little boost. And more of you know me as a game designer than as a poet. So it’s time for some blatant bribery! If you sign up as a patron of Versed, my new biweekly, 5-minute poetry podcast, I will give you a copy of a rare, not-available-for-sale rpg sourcebook called Dangers Elsewhere.

Dangers Elsewhere is a 47-page sourcebook for Shoshana Kessock’s beginner-friendly larp Dangers Untold. This sourcebook, which I co-wrote with Avonelle Wing and Ruth Tillman, contains several diverse alternate campaign settings. Each setting contains at least seven pre-generated characters.

Given that this sourcebook is essentially a list of alternate settings, you could easily use it for Heroine or any other feminist YA fantasy game.

I will send a link to this rare sourcebook to every new Versed patron in the month of January. All you have to do is back the podcast at any level. I suggest the $1 per month level.

Publications

My poetry has been published by Dark Gothic Resurrected, Thomas Novosel Press, and elsewhere.

Here are two short poems I wrote in 2016.

“Most Beautiful Words”

Word around the pediatric unit
Is that my precious son
Goes home today.
Five of the most beautiful
Words I know:
My son
Goes home
Today.

 

“Last Dinner for Two”
The moon on the water, the stars in the sky,
How they shined while we dined by the shore.
The pine needles dance in the wind. You and I
Never dance in the wind anymore.
Oh my dove, how our love’s shadow grows.
Oh my dove, why’d I wait?
Oh my dove, I say, Hope. You say, No.
Oh my dove, it’s too late.
Now sky falls upon us, the earth turns to ash
And the air cooks our lungs with each breath.
The pine needles bake, and the lake turns to glass,
But I dance by the shore till my death.
Oh my dove, how our love’s shadow grows.
Oh my dove, why’d I wait?
Oh my dove, I say, Hope. You say, No.
Oh my dove, it’s too late.
[The speaker’s voice is temporarily drowned out by fire noises.]
Oh my dove, how our love’s shadow grows.
Oh my dove, why’d I wait?
Oh my dove, I say, Hope. You say, No.
Oh my dove, it’s too late.