Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

13 August, 2019

Escape


Central Air is busted. We sleep with the windows opened strategically to take advantage of the cooler night air. At 3:37 in the morning, the storm that will make today boil blows in. Cool breeze. That fresh, taciturn kiss of almost autumn rain. Far off threat of thunder and lightening.

At 3 in the morning, the dogs are restless. They always know. I ignore them until the sound of their paws, like a telegraph operator in an old western sending a message at gunpoint, makes it impossible. Pulling on my pajama pants, I motion for the dogs in the early half-light through the window. Part sunrise, part light pollution from the airport. Ubi, the skittish one, is afraid of storms but is overcome by curiosity and the need to piss. 

I stand on the back porch and wait. Soak in the cool air through every available pore. It is 4 in the morning.

Being so accustomed to control when hubris fails 
we are still monkeys finding God in a cool breeze
and in the distant thunder, a lullaby.

06 August, 2019

Hashtag Sick: A Word-Thing


I am sick of the world through a social media lens

I am sick of bad distillation,
sick of all the negative inflation,
sick of feeling like I’ve been infiltrated
                                                                with a social disease –

some social disease fermented in the belly
of a sick, poisoned pig
gestated in the minds
of fear-mongers and profiteers

tired of being told to lock my doors
tired of being told the cops are my friends
tired being told white fascist terrorists
                                                              are just “mentally ill.”

We are all mentally ill!
We are sick with fear
being fed through a social media tube
sick from being screwed with social media lube

tired of being told
by one more keyboard psychologist
with a Google Search PhD
that this fascism
is not what we see

and that all we need
is a gun-toting Jesus
to pave our safe way.

I am pissed off and sick
of a country crucified on an AK

pissed off and sick
pissed off and sick
pissed off and sick

and the only thing I know
the only real trick
is to get far away
from this social media schtick:

to put on well-worn boots
to put on my hat
to grab my rucksack
to pick up my walking stick

and see the world through a lens unmuddied
by profiteers and fear mongers --

to see with a vision unmolested
                                unassimilated and
                                divinely unsullied.

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13 June, 2019

Baboon Lumbering

Compiled in the early 12th century, Konjaku monogatarishñ, or the "Tales of Times Now Past" is an anthology consisting of more than one thousand tales form India, China, and Japan. This print illustrates a scene from the story of a turtle who tried to kill a monkey because he heard that monkeys' livers are effective medicine. The turtle invited a monkey to his place telling him that there would be lots of delicious food. Anticipating the feast, the monkey climbed on the turtle's back to cross the ocean. When they were far out to sea, the turtle revealed his true intentions. The clever monkey then confided that he had accidentally left his liver hanging on a tree branch on the shore. Tricked by the monkey's claim, the turtle returned to land, where the monkey quickly scurried to safety high in the tree. Despite their adversarial roles in the story, the turtle and monkey in this print look to be friendly, thus giving the image an overall bucolic ambience.

I offer this image from a 12th Century manuscript and short explanation from the archive notes just to add a bit of context. Hopefully it will make sense by the time I'm finished with this post.

During my morning meditations a while back, it struck me that I am a baboon riding a turtle. I'm still unwrapping what all this metaphor means, but if I'm being honest this particular revelation didn't come as a great surprise. A few years back I started a long series of poems, many of them unread except by me and most of them probably not all that good, in which I wrote myself as a baboon. The phrase BABOON LUMBERING, or at the very least the image of it, was a central theme of those poems. It best described how I felt in the world.

Although my formal education is relatively extensive, my self education really began while I was still traversing  high school. I'm sure I went to classes my senior year, but I don't remember much of that year ... the year my dad died. What I do remember is spending a  lot of time in the very small high school library, obsessed with these dusty old books on the reference wall that no one ever paid any attention to. There was a huge series... maybe two or three encyclopedia sets long... of THE GREAT BOOKS. The first volume covered the major writings of Aristotle. Of course I didn't start there. I started with Descartes and The Scientific Method. I don't know why I started there, except that in the early time of mourning Dad's death, I found the religion I'd grown up with to be little or no salve. So maybe, I figured, maybe science will offer something else.

It didn't. Not really. But it did start to give me framework with which to view the world. There are two major element to the Scientific Method that matter here and now: evidence and observation. Although I'd done ok in school (I was a lazy student) I don't know that I ever learned anything about oberserving. And it was through the process of reading Descartes, Bacon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and as many other of The Great Books as I could read, that I began to understand the difference between just SEEING and actually OBSERVING.

That lesson has been instrumental, and has shaped me into the writer, the thinker, and the spritutal and metaphysical person I am. That lesson continues to shape my journey because at the core of it is the belief that I am not just here to SEE. I am here to OBSERVE and to write it all down as honestly as I can.

Monkeys and baboons in various mythologies are storytellers, messengers, and tricksters. And while my choice of BABOON LUMBERING had more to do with my general discomfort in the world at that time, I am starting to see that my brain keeps kicking this image back at me for a reason.


And so, here I am. Still lumbering, but more at ease. Experience and observation. Detachment (a kind of empiricism) also comes into play. But I'll save that for another time.


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14 May, 2019

Why #InstagramPoetry - Why Not??





Poet culture is a funny thing. Depending on who you talk to any one, or number, or none of the following is true:

  • You need an MFA to be taken seriously.
  • MFAs are ruining poetry.
  • Good poets read a lot.
  • Reading too much can influence your work too much.
  • Spoken word is poetry.
  • Spoken word is not poetry.
  • Slam poetry is too much like rap music.
  • Rap can't be poetry.
  • Rap done right is poetry.
  • Poems have to rhyme.
  • Poems should never rhyme.
  • Traditional form is dead.
  • Traditional forms are what make poetry different from other kinds of writing.
  • Poetry must be political.
  • Poetry should avoid politics.
  • Confessional poetry is the only poetry.
  • Confessional poetry sucks.
  • No one wants to hear your angst.
  • Angst is part of the collective human condition.



And then there's the whole mess over Instagram poetry. There are those that see it as helping redefining the genre for a social media age. And of course, there are its detractors and wannabe artistic gatekeepers. And then, the publishing angle, which paints a far more positive picture than gatekeepers and traditionalists want to acknowledge: that poets publishing on Instagram are helping the sale of poetry books.

Rupi Kaur's incredible success is only part of the story. There's all the drama over Atticus and the flame war started by Collin Yost. There's arguments over what IS and what IS NOT poetry. There are lists of Instagram poets to read and, of course, discussions over the trend.



When I signed up for an Instagram account a few years back, it on a lark. I hadn't heard of Kaur, or Atticus, or Yost. I was still a heavy Facebook user and Instagram seemed like Twitter... only for pictures.  I started posting short poems there mostly because the limitations of the platforms gave me some boundaries to work in. I've been focusing on stripping the non-essential out of my work. Sometimes the pictures had absolutely nothing to do with the poem. Sometimes they did. Most of the pictures weren't that good, but it didn't matter.

And, really, nothing has happened. I've attracted some folks who like what I do, but I have no where near the reach that Kaur has. And that's ok. My phone-photo skills have improved. And my poems have improved, too... including the ones that don't get posted, the ones that get submitted to publications and contests. True, not every poem I post is a great poem. But I've learned over the decades of writing that it's impossible to gauge the work that way. I let them loose and they fly or they don't. But they are loose, just the same.

The current through the critiques of Instagram poetry is the same sort of critiques people have leveled at everyone from Bukowski to Emily Dickinson. Supposed experts and aesthetes ("influencers" for you social media savvy folks) seek to define what poetry is and what it's not. They can have at it.  I'll keep doing my thing.

And if you like what I'm doing, hop over to Instagram (@dirtysacred) and give me some love.





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24 April, 2019

Kentucky Writer's Day 2019

"Well, you're cozy sitting back here with all your friends."

I was surrounded by three empty chairs, all of which were leather, soft, and looked as comfortable as the one I was sitting in. I made some off-handed reply, as one does in those situations. Except for me and the guy recording the event for the University of Kentucky Archives, everyone else there was paired or grouped off.

He introduced himself to me. Later I would find out he was some assistant director or under secretary of Kentucky Workforce, standing in for the director who was unavailable today.

"What brings you here?"

"Well," I said, "I've never been to one of these, and it seemed like a good time."

I always find Frankfort to be a beautiful little town in the way that all river towns are beautiful. Nestled up on both sides of the Kentucky River, it's beautiful in the way all river towns are beautiful -- this mixture of old and new, a sense of nostalgia without much in the way of sentiment, and an understated laiz faire attitude about things in general, except for a short list of completely random Things That Actually Matter (Unless They Don't At This Particular Time.)

I'm sitting the coffee shop next to Poor Richard's Books on West Broadway after going out to the Kentucky Library and Archives to watch the inauguration of the 2019-2020 Kentucky Poet Laureate, Jeff Worley. Given that we have a governor who barely reads anything except bible tracts and Ben Shapiro, that we managed to get another poet on the state dime is an extra special pleasure. The Kentucky CoffeeTree Cafe makes a decent cappuccino, has a nice atmosphere with shelves of books, some chairs and couches along with the tables, and variety size of those, too, with even one small table in the back with a single chair for solitary keyboarders and anti-social bibliophiles.

The ceremony out at the Archives was about what I expected. A few speeches and some nice poetry, some of it even read by the poets who wrote it. Right now is the break between the ceremony and the readings of the past and newly minted Poet Laureates, which will be held a few blocks away at the public library. I'll get to listen to the first hour or so of the readings before I need to leave and catch my bus home.

Although I have no part in today's festivities, I wanted to come anyway. Like going to the AWP in Portland this year, I need to start getting to know this part of what my friend George calls (sometimes a bit sardonically) "poet culture." I've paced back and forth for years, stopped at the imaginary border by my anxieties and insecurities. I used to spend a lot of time -- too much time -- drinking and ruminating over whether I really belonged in the same room with these people and being generally resentful if I wasn't ushered in like a dignitary. I removed myself from a conversation and then got pissed off when no one talked to me.

And while I'm a bit too gray in the goatee to be all starry eyed about these kind of things, it was nice that no one gave me the bum's rush. It's never easy being an artist. But it's nice to know that I can, every once in a while, sneak in to the same clubs as the cool kids.
After the new Poet Laureate gave his acceptance speech, I was standing outside waiting on a cab. My new acqauintance, the under secretary, walked by on the way to his car. He asked I enjoyed the ceremony.

"I did," I answered. I was going to go on about how smoothly it went and how I enjoy the brevity and wit of poets. But he nodded in the affirmative and strode off towards his car and towards the next thing on his agenda. As I he pulled out of the parking lot, I stood there waiting for my cab, waiting for the next thing and enjoying the spring air.




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08 April, 2019

From Field Notes, 1 April 2019: Out of The Abiding Place

Somewhere east of Libby, Montana. Woke up to first light in my mountains. Rocks stretch out and up, lifting the sky like I cup Amanda's breasts sometimes when we sleep. -- like holding a jacket open for the sun to wear, with a pattern of clouds and rain drops crystalized in suspended animation.

Thinking about Portland and about the way ahead. All of it. There are two states in which I feel most myself -- like I am living the life I was born to live -- when I am in motion, writing; and when I am still, in Amanda's arms. Every other state of being is the space between that I traverse. Geography is a myth we've believed into reality. States of Being are the only states that matter. And if I had to nail down what to call this, I'd call it a perma-state of transition. Moving between motion and rest. Between travel and her arms. Roads and rail road tracks are the paths we make, all treading in the same direction. 

Montana is an ocean of green -- endless waves of evergreens and white oak, slowly waking grass. The mist and snow offer it a supernatural aura. The place has always been magic to me. Like Menifee. Like the river. All sacred. All dirty. All beauty. All savage.

Lift up old mountain.
The sun needs a coat.
The clouds portend
of beautiful things.

Roll on train, through
this sacred place.
I will wander amongst the mist
some other day.



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01 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots - On (Not) Finding Los Angeles

[16 December 2018: Eastbound, somewhere home side of Winslow]

The train passed into mountain time overnight. Now we're in the high desert part of Arizona, rolling towards New Mexico, closer to home. 

People are starting to wake up and file into the observation car. The view is gorgeous; the sun started to just peak out, a little west of Winslow. I've been awake off and on since about 3:30, which means I slept pretty well for train travel. I travel coach because while the idea of a sleeper car appeals, the cost ends up being the same as flying and is more difficult to justify. The cheapskate in my skull gets in my way more and more as I age, but it's really only for large amounts. He's perfectly willing to nickel and dime all day, especially when it involves books. And since I stopped drinking, the cheap bastard in my skull is willing to embrace the odd and more than occasional cappuccino. But I can't seem to get the idea of a sleeper car, even though my primary argument for train travel is that it's more civilized than air and more genteel than the grey dog over long distances.

I qualify that, of course.  I take the bus from Louisville to Cincinnati on the regular. But if there was a train, I'd probably take that, even if it costs a bit more and tell the cheap bastard in my head to go to hell.

Although I made my goal of being more open and social during my time in LA, I did not really get to find the bones of Los Angeles. I understand that this ontological distinction probably marks me as a rube, or, at the very least, an provincial hack. But it does seem to be a city where there is so much of everything that finding the real Los Angeles is a bit challenging. 

All great cities operate on a philosophy like 3 Card Monte. It's not about finding what's real; it's about never really finding it. Louisville isn't any different. The basic idea of a Tourist Economy is a simple one: distract them with glitter so no one sees the gloom. GPS makes this easier, as entire neighborhoods can be erased without having to start one bulldozer. After all, the powers-that-be don't want total strangers to go and see where the old bones show through.

But that's not what I want to see when I'm out in LA. I want to see the old bones of Los Angeles. I think I catch glimpses of it, in the same way you catch glimpses of nipple during a burlesque show. It's difficult to tell, though, if what I see are the bones or the statistically acceptable brutality of a city that is so expensive to live in that it's losing 100 people a week.

I stopped trying to count the number of homeless folks and camps I saw, just riding around between class and my motel in Culver City. In most cases, they are tucked away, or on public land that has no other use -- which is a good thing, because if it did have use, those people would be pushed off. The camps one block from the train station right on the sidewalk, are probably the most brazen. An entire litle corner just on Alameda had a small community of three tents, and a man was flying nearby. Just far enough away from Union Station not to make it in any of the brochures or website or prime time television show. The homeless in LA are like the palm trees. They're like the excessive number of cars on the 405. They're like random movie star sightings at restaurants that are all ambience and with no street parking.  They're like these small towns rolling outside the windows of the observation car -- a passing curiosity quickly forgotten when the next scene is pulled in our vision.

Barreling through the sunrise
desert dust perma-frost in all directions
like the rolling empty corn fields
stretched ahead on the other side of the river.





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13 April, 2018

Most days I want to disappear, but physics hasn’t caught up with me yet ( a draft)


Mick Parsons Poetry

The centrifugal force required for a total reality shift
has yet to be proven mathematically outside Schrödinger’s Box.

The street is shaking, but no connection has been made
between the rukus and the fallen cake in the oven.

Missiles will fall any day now. Or not.
The ogre with his pinky on the button is taciturn

like the stories of tired old Brahman
who do not believe cockroaches carry the souls of evil men.

Waiting on illumination is a time waster for fidgety types.

Prayers like breath fall from my lips on these days
when there is no wisdom found in all the same old oracles.

Some afternoons I dream of South Dakota and of compasses without direction.
People are so used to the flood waters that no one measures anymore.

The river is full of toxic ash. Bloated bodies that failed evolutionary regression
are coughed up at the base of bridges, get caught in steam boat paddles.

We’ve told all the ghost stories there are to tell.
Now all we have are these tales we tell as we live them

hoping the audience doesn’t judge when the ending goes awry
and the moral is not an uplifting one.

In the end, it is the shaking that does us in.


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30 March, 2018

Darkness as the absence, not the opposite of light (For Smiley) - A Draft

Mick Parsons Poetry

 My father, I think,
wanted to be a deliberate man.

On days when the boil in my blood near overflows
I imagine what the sensation must feel like.

These ill-humors do no one any good.

Do I blame the rain? Should I pray for the sun?
Would Heaven part for the prayers
of yet another more sinner?

Ghosts of a stern religious past
cast my lot in with theirs –
resigned, at last, to darkness.

At least there is no rain.

I think of my father.
I hope for the sun.

The floor is dirty
and dishes to be done
and obligations to fulfill
between now and moonrise

when all our dead fathers rattle their chains
and bade us revenge
this murder most foul.

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02 March, 2018

Something like the face of (draft)


Ignore the monsters in the shadows.

Life is not like your childhood cartoons,
and that is not a cape on your back.

The stories in the papers are all true –
in as much as any of them can be.
But don’t imagine for one moment
those monsters are the real evil.

Go looking for monsters to kill
and they will all have the same face:
something like the face of your father,
something like the face of your mother.

The beasts you should fight --
if that really was a cape on your back --

wear expensive suits
and sit in the front pew on Sunday,

smiling while you pray penitent prayers
knowing they have made you afraid of the dark.
when real evil sleeps in the sun.



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24 February, 2018

Every day is a title fight: the last round

Everyday is a title fight, Mick Parsons
I haven't felt like blogging lately, at least in the vein that I normally do in this space. That's not to say I haven't been writing, because I have. And it's also not to say that there's lack of things to  expound upon and I haven't developed a case of apathy for the general state of the world. But I am aware that just having a blog, a slightly above average vocabulary, and a need to string words together just to feel like I'm not wasting space on the planet are not enough to drive me to comb through all of the comb-worthy things happening in the world to lay out my opinion on them. 

This could have something to do with the fact that I just turned 45, or with the fact that I recently got my 90 day chip from AA. 

AA, disease, Dante, sponsor, Virgil
From Inferno, Canto 29, engraving by Gustav Dore'
Part of the process, other than being able to sit in a room of other People Like Me and say "Hi, my name's Mick and I'm an alcoholic" is examining both the impacts and causal relationship of drinking in your life. It's taken me forever -- 90 days, actually -- to get a sponsor I trust enough to let be my sponsor... which is to say, I found someone whose experience and opinions I trust so that I can release myself into the life-long process called sobriety. 

My sponsor is the Virgil to my Dante in this journey. And yes, being in the process of maintaining my sobriety feels more like a circle of hell than a ring of paradise these days. Even though I've been really productive lately in my professional life and doing a pretty okay job of keeping my house in order, the fact it there isn't a day that I don't obsess over drinking... even if I'm just obsessing over not drinking.  

When you're not in recovery, or if you're not one of the 10% of the population with this particular allergy to alcohol, it sounds absurd. I know that. I also know it sounds equally absurd that as I am engaged in the process of my sobriety, I know that relapse is built into the disease. 

As Virgil says... my sponsor, that is ... it's never a question of IF we will relapse. It's a question of when. 

In last two weeks, two people I care about very much, people in my recovery community, have relapsed. They both struggle hard with their addictions... for them it's drugs and not booze, but the disease is fundamentally the same. The most recent of them relapsed on his 90th day of sobriety. It's hard for me not to think about that in terms of the dumb luck that's kept me sober for 90 days. Dumb luck or faith, depending on what day it is, how I feel, and how I feel about myself. Today it feels like dumb luck. Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll still be sober and feel differently about it.

Part of being sober means I feel things differently... which is to say more. One of the reasons I drink is that I get really worn out on feeling things. Working in homeless outreach and seeing what people go through, or what they put themselves through, or what they have no control over, hurts my heart. It makes me angry when politicians and some so-called religious folk dismiss, ignore, and erase the suffering of people. School shootings make me scared for my friends who are teachers, for kids, and for their parents. That people place the need to own a death machine over the lives of children enrages me. That Kentucky's governor can only dismiss violence by blaming video games, only to commit economic violence upon teachers and students in the name of a balanced budget deepens my mistrust of governments, of institutions, and of people in positions of power. 

There's so much to write about, but I'm not convinced that being one more blogger in the blogosphere makes a damn bit of difference. I'm not sure this is a time for bloggers. But I know it is a time for poets and artists. That's one arena where the fight is and that's where I'm going to be... and yes, some of it will get posted here. It's not like I'm going anywhere. I'm just shifting my process and step work to something more productive.

I've written before that everyday is a title fight. And it is. I've written before about fighting my demons, and I'm sure I'll write more. But no one talks about the fact that we end up fighting our angels, too. And contrary to popular belief, angels and demons aren't always on opposing sides. Sometimes they tag team. And sometimes faith wins. Other times it's dumb luck. Because we're just people, and flawed, though, it's sometimes damn hard to tell the difference.


But the fight goes on, anyway.

024.Jacob Wrestles with the Angel.jpg
By Gustav Dore'





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16 February, 2018

2 Poems: of journeys and nightmares (draft)

Mick Parsons, poetry, journey, prayer, peace, grace, love

Everything feels more


Better men than me have walked this way.

If there is forgiveness to be had
first I must drop this old, bloody dagger.

Late winter bird songs 
no longer hold any secrets for me,

and the dog refuses to translate.

Erase the ash from your forehead
and be made whole.

There is no room for your squeamish social mores here.
These visions are not prophetic,

and the cat playing at your feet
is not a sign of contrition.

The dog interrupts my prayers to go outside
and chase down starlings

because dogs know instinctively
that grace does not come from over-thinking.

It makes each step a pain, like dancing on broken glass


I never thought I deserved it.

Even now, in the light of a day like this,
the first whisper of Spring,
it is difficult to accept 
the inherent grace of this hour.

There are mornings –most mornings, still –
I open my eyes and marvel I am not dead
(though my dreams would tell me different)

and I reach for you, amazed in my desperation,
that my mind simply didn’t conjure you
as a defense against this bottomless hole in my chest.

Sweet mirage, warm and soft,
let me drink deep from your waters
as you wipe away these tears.

Let me pray as you breathe life back into me
from your own sacred lips.

This journey wears on me.
The clay packed in my heels is ageless
and makes each step a pain, like dancing on broken glass.

Take your hands, remove these shards
and I shall be healed.

Soothe my nightmares and remind me
one more time
I am allowed to embrace the grace
that has placed me in your arms.

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09 June, 2017

Letters from Trumplandia 12: Job Application - Real Life (Poem Draft)




Name:                                      Mick Parsons
Current Occupation:               Me
Education:
1.      Three wizards
2.      Four wood nymphs
3.      A pirate-killing siren
4.      A band of pirates
5.      One mad prophet
6.      Various and sundry outlaws, cutthroats, and saints

Career Objective:                    Keep all the pieces of my soul in one place
Salary Expectations:                Coffee. Beans. Beer. One Granny Smith  apple a day.
Hobbies and Interests:           
Omnidirectional pathless cartography; gardening; self-recrimination; reading
Are you legally permitted to work in the United States?
                                                My permit is tucked in my left boot.
References:


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25 May, 2017

Exile Verse #2: desgracia



I knew the message was clear. In the dream
a hungry tribal pig climbed into my bed
sank its carnivorous teeth into my wrist
and dragged me under.

I knew by the painted markings and hollow eyes
from what parts my harbinger hailed. We’d met before
when neither of us was lean or tired or branded.

It knows my terrible secret:
on my own, I am not particularly brave.

I battle the inevitable exile
send poems to defend my father’s good name.

It’s only in those moments of pure uncertainty and terror
when ecstasy takes over and I find my own power.

Thinking back, I try to remember
when I was thusly marked.
Remembering is hard.
The maps have all disappeared.

I reject every advantage.
I flaunt the politest of instructions.
I laugh at the kindest admonishments
and mock civilized law.

Heaven embraces the fool society will not suffer.
But there is no Heaven here.
The black birds tell me it is too soon.

I know this world will grind me to dust.
If there truly is Grace, I hope I keep my heart intact.

If I am to be destitute let there be a grand symphony of words.

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