Poems by Ken Anderson

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Pic by Agnese Lunecka

 

 

God

God yawns and rakes a hand through silver hair, pulls faces,
tweaks noses. God’s life is not as one supposes.

God is always neatly dressed, but, drunk, may curse
or bless, slouched on a golden throne.

But God can sit up very straight, his perfect features carved
in marble boredom while we wait.

A cup of vintage nectar
or a blank stare sends Hermes through the air.

God applauds a reckless hero here below
or grumbles, “Yeah, he has to go.”

God, in fact, will muse —a finger to his cheek—
while empires bloom or wilt another week.

God rarely smiles, but bears the world in style.


 

Cremation

A vague discomfort like fever
or a whiff of ammonia…. As
in a stove, you cook from the skin in, then burst
into flame. At last, you’ve found your element, fire.
You’d always longed for happiness this way.
Now the soul is a hole. Now the brain breaks out
of its cell. Now the bones unscrew, releasing each other
like friends, till, weary of shape, you’re gray sand
in the urn of a vacuous smile. What a crass disposal! Never
to resurrect, redeemed and pure. Pulverized fragments,
fillings and fittings picked like gold from a stream….
Yes, love is light, and love is heat,
but the furnace, love, consumes.


 

The Monument

From the night’s grave,
the wine exhumes your dad’s rank martyrdom, how
at the dorm you learned distraction, staggered down steps
to howl your grief on the lawn.

A heart attack, you said for years
(to keep the spook locked up), but drunk,
you spill your sad heart’s red. He cashed in his life,
worth more dead, but wanted.

Your mother sold the relics, fled the noses, eyes, and tongues.
Your sister shares a lover’s bed to bear Wisconsin winters,
deep paternal cold. Your phantom brother vanished like mist.

But you— you’re much too lovesick not
to idolize the bitter disappointment stalled in time,
the indifferent god slumped on the wheel, foot
on the gas, as if driving home.

He locked the mortgaged door.
He signed the note. He drowned in exhaust. Like father, son,
why take your life with qualms?
You say for you he set himself aside.
I say he raised a lofty monument.


 

Ice Palace

In the bedroom
of the heart, all draped
with snow —when the wolves are out,
the elements pure, the senses sharp—
I know your love’s keen scent.
Let in the wolf called love.

In this winter
of the body’s halls and stairs, yes, come.
Let in the wolf, his panting breath a mist.
Don’t lock the wolf outside. A bitterness
of sleet and snowflakes
blows
through my rooms
a complaisant welcome
here, and who has tied the tiny bells
to trees, but me, adorned my inmost walls
with frost, my chandeliers
with icicles
of crystalline despair? The trees are clinking, clinking
in the icy gusts. Let in the wind.

The wolf is sniffing tracks
in the yard. He scratches flowers pressed
in ice, the memories fragrant, small, and white
beyond this maze
of glistening glaze, this big glass house
eternity has decked
with diamonds. Let the wolf inside.

The moon, a snowball, lights no sparkling scene more haunted
than the floor’s hard pond, the curtain’s tinsel waterfall,
the silent, snow-filled hearth
of my desolate dreams. Let in the winter,
and the window frame no deer.
I know your love’s keen scent.
Let in the wolf called love.


 

Haunted Windows

When adopted, I slept in a bedroom
with two windows in a corner, one facing west,
one north, and when the wind would blow
at night, the screens moaned so humanlike
I would sit up in bed, listening, while my spurious parents
(a drama queen and a mannequin) slept soundly
in separate rooms down the hall.

The weird waves of lament sounded
as if a dark, devastated man were standing
outside the window, grieving the sudden death
or jarring betrayal of someone he had loved
with all his heart.

Little did I know I was hearing the older, isolated man
I’d become here at the other end of life’s diary,
mourning my solitude after so many doomed relationships,
my failing trusting people (the way Catherine failed Heathcliff),
trusted people failing me and leaving me moaning like screens
—alone at the beginning, alone at the end—
with the winter wind wuthering outside my window again
and with love’s many variant names scratched
in the broad, painted sill: Catherine Earnshaw
or my third lover, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff
or my last lover, and then again to Catherine Linton
or the mother of my daughters.

The wild wind last night reminded me
of the those old moans, as well as a scene in Wuthering Heights,
the first and most important novel I ever read.
Catherine’s ghost sobs in the dark outside a visitor’s window
because she has passed over Heathcliff, the love of her life,
for what passes for position and wealth
on a desolate, windswept, Yorkshire moor.

“Let me in— Let me in!” she cries, shivering, cut off from life.

Except that —now don’t laugh—
I do have a happy, sweet-tempered dog
I adopted from the humane society
when he was two months old, alone and shy
in a pen, looking at me forlornly, waiting for me
to pick him up.

Of course, he waits for me to open the back door
to let him in more patiently than spectral Catherine begs
to be let in through the window, and when I leave
for an hour or two (or a day or two at most), I always promise
to come back, and I do.

“I’m come home,” I say. “I’d lost my way on the moor!”


 

About the Author

Photo by Rick Caldwell

Ken Anderson was a finalist in the 2021 Saints and Sinners poetry contest. New Poetry from the Festival (an anthology of the 2021/2022 winners and finalists) includes four of his poems. His poetry books are The Intense Lover and Permanent Gardens. Publications include Better than Starbucks, Café Review, Coffin Bell, Dash, Dawntreader, Harvest (Quillkeepers Press), Free Verse Revolution, Hole in the Head Review, The Journal, London Grip, Lotus-eater, Lullwater Review, Nebo, Oddball Magazine, Orbis, Penumbra, Rudderless Mariner Poetry, Sangam Literary Magazine, Sein und Werden, Toho Journal, Verbal Art, and Willawa Journal.