From many places, speaking truth
and making magic happen. Celebrating language.
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POETRY OF JONEVE McCORMICK
|Back to the sea
|Reflections (after Rumi)||Killing the Christ within
|It's Said...||The fairies||For David, the Painter|
|Self Image Is Destiny||'There's something ✚ Red Cross ✚ about a woman'||Red sandals|
|Some New Scholars
As a child...
Beginnings and Endings
|for John Milton|
|Thanksgiving 2006||must and could||Gandhi|
|I am Kali from the West||On the Road||Who are you?|
|Middle Way||Hope (October, 2008)||You and I|
|Metaphors in motion||Ideal World||Attention|
Interview with Esther Blue, jazz instrumentalist
Oil Painting - a Way of Beginning
CASA Magazine Interview / Q's and A's
Go to Page 2 . Page 3
Back to sea waits and wiggles
where the will to be
(not greed) trumps right and wrong.
I would be a tiny fish, live one marvelous moment
or a big one, snapping up the little.
The sea sings, ‘the one who doesn't know me is an orphan.'
I will go to the deepest place,
listen, and find my wings
where they form.
Winged dinosaur, master fisher
I dream you are an ancestor
riding rolling waves with your mate
and circling high overhead.
You dive, spear first
reassuring, over and over
into the hungry sea where I toss.
Reflections (after Rumi)
A cloud passes unseen
you see the shadow it casts
Pulled from your source
you long to go back
Desire makes your heart skip a beat
in the lock of your fear a key turns
In time all images are spent
like gold plucked from a sleeve
You deem yourself a donkey's slave
yet ride a magical horse
While you sleep in darkness
something within you shines
While your body fades to dust
you hop from roof to star
Your body is but a shadow
of a shadow of your love
A Reflection (after Rumi)
How does softness leave a petal,
or hardness a stone?
But the parts, when lost bless,
bring you to all there is,
the Friend you seek beyond them.
Killing the Christ within
(written after reading comments by Benny Morris on ethnic cleansing)
Ethnic cleansing is sometimes justified
he tells the crowd
which claps and shouts
roars and cheers, believing
what goes around
doesn't come around
when you're armed to the teeth
St. Peter isn't there this time,
just an old man
sucking on an empty pipe.
A cock crows and keels over.
He sees the cock drop
and tells the crowd he's had a sign
- it's up to them, the chosen,
to kill the Christ left within
- their Beast is set to rise
to scorch the land again
and they're to follow,
pitiless as a desert sun.
(a suicide bomber foresees her death)
dynamite strapped across her chest
dark hair covered, soft brown eyes,
she steps over raw sewage
cement rocks and broken toys
across fields and into a shop
busy with affluent citizens
her veiled purpose to blow apart
those who drove her family
from their land and lives
who degrade without a rest,
stealing mind and body
like vampires feasting
the world watching,
she will not be broken
or pretend to acquiesce to slavery
she will light a fire of hope
with the orange cord held to her heart,
a martyr opening gates to heaven
(short poems and sayings)
It's said, 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs,'
wet wrinkled ones, eyes bulging.
Many do, yet never find a prince;
find grinning frogs in their mirrors instead.
A green fish, nearly too old to breathe, rests
under October's thin ice. Early snowflakes
melt above him. Soon fish and flakes will
leave the viewer, who says he owns them.
Some have said that Sound and Picture
are more fundamental than the Word, better
vessels for magic, superior tools for the artist;
but, like fire, language is a gift from the gods;
words can create both sounds and pictures
and turn them into poetry. Words are wands.
A bowl of cherries is just a bowl of cherries.
A hawk circles over a farmer's hens
while the farmer plucks cherries for his pies,
pops one into his chin.
'Impulsive' is said to be
eager without looking
then - surprised!
Some with that habit
age to 'old and wise';
others turn old
with a vengeance.
When our thoughts impinge on one another
and shrink, energy hardens into mass
and we see the worlds we call real.
Dancer and red fish dream,
one under satin,
one under stone;
glide like fireflies
from their covers.
His poem about a perfect lover
is well-crafted, but no one lives there.
The color red is said to bring
new beginnings and prosperity,
the darker shades elegance and power,
the brighter ones energy.
Body and Soul:
Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return
Soul thou art and soul thou shall remain
One's will to be all he can
guarantees his fall
until he completes the work within.
What is permitted may not be forgiven;
if you would walk scatheless through your days,
your own master, blameless,
listen to the still voice within.
They still study with Merlin's coterie
and honor sundry desires
like their cousins, the angels.
Knowledge yet keeps them light
and their wings brightly rainbow
while much they do be hidden
but fewer appear fully-formed
when today's reality experts
go on their paid vacations.
Some say fairies are migrating
for security reasons to other planets.
Self Image Is Destiny
There was a little girl
with shining curls,
one in the middle
of her forehead;
daily she was told
they were beautiful;
they grew thicker, shinier
like the coat of a young alpha wolf.
As the girl grew older
she began to hear she'd caused
the hair of her friends
to be thin and limp
because she was claiming
the most care and attention
and she caved in, shrank from view;
her hair dulled, turned limp, fell out.
Then the hair of her friends
didn't look so bad.
(It's lonely at the top.)
'There's something ✚ Red Cross ✚ about a woman'
A commentator said that on the News last night
about a young pretty woman with a future
who had risked and lost her freedom for a loser.
She should have, could have, remained a K-6 teacher
had she kept her own nose clean.
Instead she helped a pirate with one bold eye escape from prison
and now might spend some dozen years in one herself.
At 17 she'd eloped with a gambler, who told her with her help
he'd reform; she was rescued that time by her brother.
She could have lived in comfort, married someone respectable,
retired with a pension; so what other explanation could there be than
'there's something ✚ Red Cross ✚ about a woman'?
(a vignette celebrating some dimensions of red)
I've been painted antique gold by Marie, the jazz singer who owns me. Red is the color of creativity and I'm naturally a glorious shade, but tonight she's going to see Il Barbiere di Siviglia with an admirer who's meeting clients before the performance.
Not that she wouldn't wear red if she wanted to - shoes, dress, rose in her hair. Her favorite song is "Hang Tough," New Orleans style, and she knows how to sing it. The clients will be more impressed with gold, she explained, even after they drink too much at intermission. Changing my color is just for tonight.
My former owner was an astronaut who wore my heels down tripping to the moon. I was her 'good luck' pair - not serious like her, she said, who did look serious in her moon-walk boots. I don't understand why she had me re-heeled - then left me to be re-sold. I heard her say, though, that she wanted to go out in style, like Yeats' wild old wicked man, not at home tucked under pink sheets. Maybe she wanted to give me that kind of send-off.
All my owners have been soulful nonconformists, each quite distinct. I've had a few - traveling friend to friend - and then there are the eternal 'live again' consignment shops where my current owner and I met up. 'Red sandals, new heels! Voila!' she cried, and kissed me. Tomorrow she'll peel this gold away. Tonight we visit Rossini at the Met. I've heard opposites attract (though not for long) and I'm guessing her partner will be dressed in grays.
For David, the Painter
'Sometimes I want to paint
something as corny
as a sunset,' he said.
'Why don't you,' I asked.
'Maybe you could paint it
like no one else has.'
But he shook his head,
'I have an image to think of.'
He paints abstractly
and, instead of things, an idea
that life is an unending plateau.
His paintings remind me of sunsets.
Some New Scholars
(verse commentary, after Yeats' "The Scholars")
by William Butler Yeats
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
They used to be forgetful of their sins,
now they seduce their students, pretend they're
young themselves, but can't remember when they
felt love's emotion without self-consciousness;
believe beauty is clever, not ignorant.
The older ones vacation in exotic places, the
younger wear disdain and good will; all wear
the carpet with their shoes; all think aloud
in the same domain of political correctness.
Few in the humanities or social sciences dare
have an original thought that works (I recall
one: "pecked to death by doves"; its source
was speaking of her friends).
All know the members of their crowd; it's still
important to know the right thinkers. In a town
I passed through, those teaching for the local
college bought their uniforms at Sears; the one
with pecky friends asked if Catullus was an
astronaut, then confessed she'd mostly read
classic comics, adding that her specialty was
As a child...
I learned to hold spiders, snakes, toads and lizards,
the feel of life, stroking their small bodies with care.
Years later at an inland college I saw a teacher in the faculty lounge
kicking a cricket side to side, enjoying its terror.
I dodged his shoe and picked it up; a scream from across the room
whipped deep into my back -- other teachers had been watching
(and crickets didn't belong except in poems).
I took it outside and put it on the grass, faded, its presence scattered,
but still beautiful and black.
(Childhood learning was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.)
Related work: "Close Conspiracies: A Memory of Bakersfield"
originally published in Voices In Wartime
Ethics is the contemplation of optimum survival;
ethical behavior is always self-determined,
based on reason and belief in one's own honor.
(L. Ron Hubbard)
As their appetite for power took over,
ethics fell by the wayside.
Turning pleasures into drugs,
chasing oblivion, reveling in blood sport
they cowered before Tiberius, Caligula, Nero
and became the prey of sackers from without.
This is history that repeats itself:
when the balance between ethics and power is lost
a downward spiral develops
and for every contra-survival act
there's a 'reason why' to justify it.
Power itself doesn't corrupt.
In the United States today
the story of George and his cherry tree
is often called a myth,
those who died at the Alamo
It is inconceivable to opportunists
who take what others have built
while trashing their vision
that when we were on our way up
there were Americans (sober or not)
who stood on their honor
at the level of legend.
Beginnings and Endings
Thor's forearm and fist
Hammer rising Feisty maidens gliding by
Marginal voices whisper, 'not born of reason
No endings are signaled'
People sublimate to build a nation
and realize a vision
When wills become feeble
They make hammers with alloys
And built-in obsolescence
Opting out of prison
True to self and all they knew
Joan of Arc chose death by fire
Garcia Lorca was shot dead
Those willing to be
Conscious and free
Create an immortal world of forms
Promising a future
Held in an all-seeing eye
Thor's hammer forges on
Lorca's laurel wreath glows in eternal light
Joan communes with her God, radiant
And humble as her Savior was
Kneeling in the Garden
for John Milton
When we're young, arrogant lambs
with heart and wool
the world lusts after
we preen and swagger
all the way to hell
by a poet)
changing radically -
we crawl from the fire,
rise toward the light
(called by the same poet
Those who stay home
ask, 'why look for trouble?'
and 'who needs to be a hero?'
as though they have little to discover
but you reach
into hell and heaven
for secrets of the journey,
show Him planting His apple seed
that holds the fruit
of divine Knowing
in our Garden
then creating us,
His chosen seekers and finders
"The only tyrant I bow to
is the still voice within."
Knowing the difference,
he chose between dying and living.
A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside us... (Franz Kafka)How does one come to write with the power to melt a frozen sea?
After all controversy...
there is a winter solstice
carrying the promise
of another spring
and a Christ within
willing to be born
I am Kali from the West
I come into this world
from Spirit like any male deity
but am often perceived by the fearful
to be less holy.
In mortal form, men believe I am flattered by propositions
and pleased when they tell me who and what to love.
They think I am fulfilled when they force obedience,
saying what they want is what I must want --
like all they hold in thrall.
Few in this drama guess the rage in my heart
and my secret plotting to render the bullies harmless,
fighting each other to mutual defeat, shorn of luck.
I drink their blood afterwards, wear their teeth in my necklaces.
Here is my story in a myth:
In a time out of mind a Spirit visited earth
to destroy what is decayed and corrupt;
She carries a snake for a staff, dancing East to West and back.
Between one noon and the next many mortals fall into Her crypt
and all become slaves who would enslave Her.
On the Road
rocks turn to dust, seeds are barren,
a tail of greed wags the dog
(the one who kills
the goose with the golden eggs)
half beasts slouch
toward succor and safety,
fall into fires
with withering angels
never say die
whose path is holy
not wanting to end up on his horns
she refused his friendship
and ended on a sword
some approach suing for redress
and soon find weakness
with their arrows
in a world ruled by struggle
there are choosers and the chosen,
each depending on the other
young girls, coatless in winter,
pull in eyes;
the big fish don't always
catch the little
wolves dine on fresh lambs
until the lambs turn into tigers
(the tigers into saviours)
one with great love and knowledge
walked on water
beckoning others to follow
and they still believed in death
Who are you?
You, behind dark and light forms here and there,
Behind mirrors and doors,
Behind thoughts and their frames,
Behind angels and demons,
Behind my desires and fears ...
Who are you
Who teaches that the less space there is between us
The higher I can fly on my own wings?
I have found my middle way,
coming round full circle
after touring the world
in many pieces
and putting them together.
I can see truth and wisdom
on paths I believed
opposed my own;
what seemed contrary
belongs now in my larger world
where, almost surprised
I find myself centered,
somebody at home.
The leaves on my money tree are filled with sunlight
but my IRA is nearly defunct.
Thoughts darken, turning to bankers and other wall street thieves
dreaming up new strategies, and to greed and sabotage;
I look at the gold-lit leaves --
they could be an omen of prosperity,
but then I recall Pandora's safe box.
You and I
I know, from dreams, we played with Minos,
ran in Minoan marathons
and later met on Everest,
spying for different queens.
When did we first meet?
It was yesterday, this life;
you harpooned me from across another room,
love and lust penetrating in equal measure.
You wait now for me to do your will,
then go about your business.
Again you tell me not to dream,
you need your freedom.
I can give that now before you need it,
skipping all that was in-between.
I love freedom too, in my nest as well as out.
We have said hello-goodbye many times.
When the untold suffering to come
propels humankind-in-need to find new ways,
maybe you will see me whole
when we meet up.
Metaphors in motion
Some say we create our worlds
from memories made long ago
like the story of a clam and its surf
on a wild and pristine beach
becoming bony jaws and frothy milk,
irritations overcome turning into pearly teeth,
on to a mercedes with a roaring motor
we've quieted down, opening its hood ...
and catch ourselves in our dramas.
Many have longed to be free,
self-governing, safe, in a space
where every being has a place
and is understood --
a heaven here and now.
Plato had in mind a realm
ruled by wise philosophers;
he said poets could not be allowed,
were hard to lead and told stories
of gods and goddesses, how they lived
before, some say, man fell to earth.
Others, mostly from the East,
teach how to get oneself back
and the freedom that comes with that
(which is what it is all about) :
For as long as it takes
a seeker must look within for truth
and experience the karmic rule
that over time inflow equals outflow
like the breath -- there is only now.
I've looked at moonless waters, treading them
burned and frightened,
and I've looked from high places
in the light where love rules.
I listen to the still voice within
which knows without thinking,
correct myself as needed,