Poems by Galen Cunningham 



Leveled, Beveled, the Lover
The people I love absolutely love to bevel my love.
The people I cannot help but love make me question 
everything called love, and that which is not. 
And the people I cannot love
push me to find those that I do. 
I believe that love is a thing that eventually turns thief,
then slowly, then very quickly, turns killer. 
For what I have figured about love is that 
it always wants something more from us, 
and when it cannot get more of what it wants, 
will destroy all that we are or have. 
Or love is a thing that sets decay into everything
we have called precious and dear, 
until all we have left is what we loath to have loved. 

Stars in the Twilight of the Gods
I have a crowbar. Not just any crowbar, but one given to me
        by the God; 
the High One, Odin. He put me in its charge before warning 
        me of stardust 
getting into my eyes. The crowbar was only for prying stars
        from the night;
they haven’t invented goggles in Asgard yet, and though I 
        try to explain 
to Odin what they are, he won’t listen; won’t have anything 
        To do with it;
thinks I’m trying to trick his only one good eye. I wonder
        if he’ll ever 
wear an eye patch because the bad one is growing maggots;
        but he stomps,
sternly warns me with his good one; and I’m off to the stars
        to pry them 
from the night—from the firmament; from their starry place 
        above the plumes of Ragnarök—
above the evaporating Giantlands, Godlands, Humanlands, 
        Elflands, Spiritland; all Lands. 
I must climb up the boughs of Yggdrasil to reach the heavens;
        and so, I climb, 
and I climb, and I break branches, ripping pants, shirt, pride,
        and flesh on 
that ancient underworld rooted tree that reaches through sky,
        above everything. 
I need a ladder that constantly snags; it’s an awkward, difficult 
        climb to the Stars. 
Though my body is faint my spirit is not weary; and though space 
        is difficult to breath in, 
when I reach the top of the world, I feel myself to be the thing
        that threatens; 
that makes people both awe and fear: the shadow superseding 
        moon and dawn.
But the moment fades, darkness engulfs me like a fog sweeping 
        from the abyss;
for I remember, I am a dumb laborer who traded time and wealth 
        for a single draught. 
But it wasn’t for any olde drink, I’ll add—but the one and only,
        Mead of Poetry. 
Oh! It pools my tongue, makes a hollow well of my heart just to 
        think of it—
as I start prying the stars from their firmament. One after another, 
        no two alike;
they fall, corral, like snow from the deep twilight of winter; they
        spin, shed, like mysteries 
that will never be caught; for their revelation is a concealment of 
        sorts: a ritual of play. 
I pry all throughout the lonely, oxygen-less, night; hands blistering, 
        neck stiffening;
the stars rising like screws from their blackholes. Sometimes their 
        light flashes or slithers
out all sublime or monstrous, like coiling fire: like hellacious snakes 
        with vacuums for skin.
Flakes, sparks, and stardust gets into my eye, and though I worry of 
        going blind, I don’t stop jamming,
twisting, searching for little slips, threads, corners, crooks to press my 
        crowbar into; to pull, pry,
cork out the stars; to make follicles for the light to drip and descend 
        to Earth.
And the stars drop from their excessive corporeal caverns, like 
        Angels thrown to Earth;
each star from its twilight, from its labyrinth of constellation, winds
        a crooked path to Earth.
I have a taste for the impossible; a thirst not easily quenched; and thus, 
        you see them spiraling, 
shooting down to Earth. I have traded everything I am for something I 
        can only name.   
I am prying out Stars in twilight of the Gods, the further I go, the harder, 
        the darker it is.  

Soap Opera : Love, a Karmic Consequence
All parties coming to query the queen died 
with their horses in the snow. The prince that 
she had loved laid his pale cheek into the bitter
earth, his tears taking frost as his eyes formed 
into wickedly wide, white voids. When she 
found his party she wept, then told her guard
to bury the corpses with the others, but to leave
the prince to herself. She later embalmed him 
with more snow; with the last tears of the night— 
the last night she would cry within this lifetime—
then kissed his forehead and bade him goodbye. 
A thousand years later, he saw her at a party; 
she was drinking white wine, and he was 
drinking whatever beer he found in the fridge.
Gravity, motion, the holy spirit if you well, 
all called, culled, guided his body, his breath,
his inspired voice to her ear. Two weeks later,
after making love to her, she wept into her pillow, 
her face frozen with memories she mistook for a 
dream, for a childhood play with bad role models;
for the lovesickness contracted by former lovers, 
not by former days. The weeks, the months, the years 
evolved into matrimony, and all was flawless 
until the day there came an early winter blizzard.
On that day she called a name that drew a blush
from him; that quickly, but quietly divided,
froze, itself into shadows that seemed livid, 
hateful, and all too often, too frightening for her. 
Her love, her heart, was divided—devoured—
in that countenance’s fixed and pitiless shadow. 
And he, not knowing his anger, grew to cursing 
himself, her, all of existence; eventually taking 
himself to the range to take a look at the disgusted
shadow in his face. And starring at himself, he
found himself sad to behold; taking in his own
image, he found it frighteningly lacking—wanting.
So, he took to the mountains, to realms of winter ice
where every image confounded him with another 
facet of wanting. Did the queen know how he 
sought after her so long ago? Neither remembers 
of course; no one remembers their past lives, and 
if they do, they are a shaman or a sham or both. 
The point is that it was not her but him; it was not
his fault, but the image, the shadow in the mirror;
it was time and all the stupid, dull, lizard-like men 
that were querying her from dawn to dusk. In truth, 
she, like he, died as a virgin in that life they are both 
glad to forget but not less mad, only a little more 
wise, to have it in the repertoire of things we keep  
behind the iced walls of desire’s fictitious fixations. 

Pigs in the Sky
It is not a matter of running away or to;  
but of lost ships coupled with the mad, 
and the found still floundering with their
survivor’s guilt. The whale has got him 
by the snout, obsessing him with the worry 
of never making it to legacy’s table;
which, for the whale, is good and natural 
long life. And his snout, having the pig’s 
congestion—or lack of dietary restriction— 
the glutton of all metaphors, beguiles him 
into a worldwide plague of despair; a 
whirlwind of sentiment to attach words
and so much shit because that is his 
vocation; because how else may we 
contain an experience, extract the raw
feeling, if not with the artful, sometimes
all too mechanical, manipulation of 
mere words; if not with the pig’s misguided
scent to befoul us? It is for this, as for other
things, why we call the wordsmith, the 
poet or storyteller, a magician; and yet 
this does nothing to explain the wisdom 
of those that never seek out a magic show, 
nor of they that do. This does nothing to 
help pontificate on the modern or mundane. 
What I mean is, I am not running away from 
or to anyone, but am steadfast, pendant,
eventuating upon the right set of words 
to make my paltry claims into a real pardon.
Running—No!—I am chained and find 
no other way to reach out into the night
except by ponderous words, which, 
however lucid the extension of all 
their riddles, can or will never grasp
all I wish for them; for their intimacy 
is a coldness that warms only to the reader: 
and what that sounds like is what any ship 
may sound like when it is gathering 
water, before it sinks; and which is no 
way for the pig in me to die, or I am 
not a pig, and this is not my death but 
a meditation on the pigsty of the world 
and our precarious place within its 
ever encompassing prison-like stare; 
a sinking with no sublime whale or sea, 
and only the pitifully snorting, groaning, 
stinking pork belly rolling in his slime.
But the real whale of our imagination—
not that of our realist metaphor, which is 
all piggy and hopeless—goes on 
ever elucidating the elusive pride of all 
the text sets out to evince yet only evades. 
And in that ancient, endless, enchanted 
course that no one no longer wanders in 
(gets lost within) her voice catches me 
leaping from the pigsty, and yells, 
“You’re running!” even as I leap over
ship, out of the world’s slimy puke 
of a pen, and into the cold deep sea; 
and she that called me the runner—
she that threatened, condemned my 
freedom—begins running, almost flying, 
from her pig legged prison and into the sky. 

St Joseph of Cupertino
Your father died in debt, leaving you to 
be born in the stable. But you were fine 
with that, for it allowed you kinship to 
your savior, and therefore closer to Mary, 
whom you loved not quite like a son—
admit it, Joseph, you didn’t masturbate to 
anyone else half as much. They said
you were too mentally slow and uneducated
to be a monk in all their orders, so you 
became a stable man instead, offering to 
show your superiors the superiority of 
your simple but anything but mild faith.  
And thus, you became a monk, for they 
saw that what God declined to give your 
head, he had abundantly filled the heart with; 
and then, your dream now fulfilled, you
you begin to fly—fly—and fly: to levitate 
above the plains of man’s unfeeling brain.
Yes, you squeezed out tears, devotion, 
seamen and freedom from the mother of 
God, causing your body to roll and roil 
and ascend up to the pearly vaults where 
flesh and passion and spirit and desire are
born and dissolved into a single flying
object unidentifiable by us, who think with 
the brain and head and not the fire, the blood, 
or the inexhaustible engine of constraint 
that is spirit’s tension and releasing; cannot 
think with propulsion, but always grounded
by gravity, believe in only what our feet 
can step on, our hand touch, our mouth eat, 
our genitals fuck, and what our mind can name. 
But they could not name your power, and 
thus the inquisition threw you away, your 
life passed alone, making you immortally 
ascetic; no longer susceptible to spontaneous
levitation. And because your flight took us 
by like many sparrows racing from a burning 
sun into a nest of shade; like the cool wind 
that follows a flock of gawking geese 
winding North, then South, then all over 
as all seasons become one. We are left richer,
but no wiser, of your ever having been; thus
making you again like your savior. Such 
simplicity; such grace such as the world has 
not known, with sincerity quite unparalleled; 
all of this beauty just more reason to call 
you mentally handicapped if not also insane. 
But such is man, such is the world; neither 
are what we would like them to be, and yet, 
because of those like you, there’s reason to,
if not believe, then to keeping going; whether 
ascension or ascetic chains becomes our path.
Because the immortal beloved lives on in 
the immortal young bosom of Mary, in Christ, 
in Joseph, in you, in me, in everyone we have
ever loved, there is hope that our decision 
to bear our evils, and situations of gravity, were
not born of naïve fantasy, but the wisdom of 
the fantastic; that our kindness were not mere 
show for spouse, society, boss; and that our
mercy were not insipidity, but the hand of 
the Master untying every doom weighing 
us to earth’s deep, unyielding, bow. 


About the Author

Galen Cunningham has been published or is forthcoming in Literary Yard, The Creativity Webzine, Blue Unicorn, Ink In Thirds, Sparks of Calliope, Apocalypse Confidential, Fresh Words Magazine and IHRAF. Originally from New York (the North Country), he lives in the foothills of Colorado.