John Laurits' Poetry

Elegy, Upon a Drop of RainSonnet on the Threshold I: On a DoorwaySonnet on the Threshold II: On an Open WindowOctaves on the Hour IOctaves on the Hour IIThe DestituteYoung Muhammad (Before He Was a Prophet)
Elegy, Upon a Drop of Rain
to my beloved grandfather, Paul Eugene Lawrence (Oct. 31st, 1935 – Dec. 9th, 2015)
requiescat in pace

the curving gesture of this ink contains
the solitary witness to the long
and gaping night that passed away like rain,
its dissipating shapes, in darkness drawn

where countless moments disappear’d inside
a void from which they’ll never be retrieved:
the silence closes seamlessly behind
a sound that now can never be perceived

its absence, no amount of ink could fill
nor trace the way each absence has become
the spring from which our presence spills—
or how this darkness differs from another one 

Sonnets on the Threshold: I (On a Doorway)

the doorway opens there to join two things—
but as it joins them it must also stand
between them—like the god who now relieves
the pain he first created with the same hands.

And standing in the threshold, when I close
my eyes: does it not also stand in me—?
dividing inner darkness, juxtapos’d
as if it were no longer simply one thing?

outside, some dimly lighted face ignites
before the doorway’s glowing—like cold hands
approach the warmth of flames: as close as flesh can…

while things inside are huddling in their bright,
familiar comfort, braced there: to withstand
the infinite onslaught of the dark expanse

Sonnets on the Threshold: II (Upon an Open Window)

these eve’nings, open’d windows seem to breathe
& whisp’ring sounds suffuse the darkened rooms
with ev’ry fearful possibility
whose growing sleeps inside each night’s beshadow’d womb;

sometimes, a darkness hangs its curtain there—
behind it: all those things that children fear
are really taking place—! while grownups swear
(from golden well-lit hallways) “you are safe, my dear”—

did they forget what waited in the night
for them?—: when furies waver’d ev’rywhere
around the suffocating sheets they clutch’d so tight?

those things (that they themselves abandon’d there!)
have not been worn somehow away, by time
or threadbare mem’ry (no!)… …they all remain nightmares

Octaves on the Hour I

each hour overflows into the next
then shatters, all its pieces tumbling off
as these unsay-able, little, shining specks
that crumble–quick as lightning–into naught…

but this one sits there, fresh and opened wide–
as wide as the sound of ringing bells–and clear–
as clear as the space inside them, blankly bright,
not knowing where to start or even how we got here

Octaves on the Hour II

the hour opens up, a giant mouth
whose teeth are striking bells, ringing in space
in vibrating rows, to tear the moments out
forever from the flesh of all our days;

these minutes devoured, disappear within
the dark eternity: our thoughts and plans,
minor annoyances, messages sent,
are just the aftertaste of blood on some minute hand

I am that man, all wrapped up in the old
grey coat to hold the coldness out—to hold
this warmth inside, with my small share of life
that wavers ( like an ember ) from my soul;
when you walk by this coat, I almost move
you — almost stop you — but there isn’t room
enough tonight for kindnesses so big —
besides, you have so many other things to do

Young Muhammad (Before He Was a Prophet)

before the blood & kingdoms crashed like waves
& rose like walls around the words
resounding in all dawns — before he came,
& scattered legions that (like frightened birds)
receded with their emblems from the plain
& from the orphan-prophet’s voice, dispersed

before the prophet from the boy, emerged —:

already, mountains wondered how mere stones
(such as themselves) had ever held the weight
which surged inside this boy who walked alone
among their hills, not knowing how to pray
or where to turn his face — or was it really he
who held them up —? above some endless being
that swelled in vast, mysterious tides between
the pounding, frightened shores of a child’s heart beats?

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All poems © 2016 John M. Laurits