The Writer, the Reader, and the Synapse Between Them

A collection of poems by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall

The Writer, the Reader, and the Synapse Between Them
Per V.B. & W.K.

From the writer to the reader
From the speaker to the listener

Like a 16-year-old crossing a field at noon
A little word has a lot of ground to cover in the heat
A mile of open ground to a wall and some trees
Where confusion does not want it to arrive

From the writer to the reader
From the speaker to the listener

If we send a little word across a field
But stay behind ourselves and only watch
To see what happens – how responsible are we
If the word dies screaming among the wheat

From the writer to the reader
From the speaker to the listener

Like a 16-year-old crossing a field at noon
A little word has a lot of ground to cover in the heat


On the Opening of Words

I love to open words, and so do you:
Old words growled by our fathers in the fens
Smooth words polished on the tables of the Law
Neologisms laughed into being over beer

Words cadenced on the bloody fields of Mars
Words whispered on the perfumed pillows of Venus
Words prayed around the Altar of our God
Words breathed in pain on the last day of all

I love to open words, and so do you
Our words, our holy words, both old and new


The War on Books

“The war on books, codified by Stalin’s functionaries at the Soviet Writers’ Conference in 1934 and ruthlessly waged by the secret police for the following fifty years, was finally coming to an end, and Zhivago’s insurgent guerrillas were winning.”
-Duncan White, Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War

What books will America purge this week –
What childhood adventures, what scholarly works
What entertainments of an idle hour
Will be forbidden to us in this Land of the Free?

We pray that nations blessed with liberty
Will smuggle books to us, stories and poems
With innocent ideas that give delight
And in their innocence threaten tyrants

What books will America purge this week –
And when did we become afraid of ideas?


Reading is a Suspicious Activity: Blue Penciled in Solovetsky
“…Soviet writers failed to write about their personal thoughts.” -Yevtushenko

Reading is a suspicious activity
Unless it’s a technical book of instructions
Or a hunting magazine with centerfolds
Of seductive semi-automatics

Writing is a forbidden activity
Unless it’s a grocery shopping list
Or the code to a new computer game
Of zombie valkyries with swastika tats

They’ve only gotten as far as statues thrown down
They’ll destroy the libraries next – and maybe you


Murder Most Cosy

A murder cannot possibly be cosy
With blood all over the vicarage floor
And while Miss Marple is politely nosy
There is still the problem of all that gore

A murder committed in an English village
Is hardly cosy to m’lord who died
Surrounded by hop fields under tillage
He still is dead (tho’ in the countryside)

A murder cannot possibly be cosy –
But is the widow finding life now rosy?


Keats Helps Carry a Cat to the Veterinarian
[I]f Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all
-John Keats, Letter to John Taylor, February 27, 18181

The leaves come naturally from the trees today
As autumn floats away, onto the pages of life
Memories set down, one word at a time
Or phrases scribbled in heart-leaping haste

But in humility the poor poet perceives
That lines often don’t come naturally at all
Resisting as fiercely as hissing cats
Being crated for a trip to the vet

No

Poetry doesn’t come as easily as all that –
Come, Mr. Keats, and help me with this cat!

1 John Keats – “Keats’s Axioms” — Letter to John Taylor, February 27, 1818 | Genius


Being an Eloi is Okay, But Make Sure the Smoke Alarms Have Fresh Batteries

Some poets are Eloi, deconstructing this
And disconnecting that in weak free verse
Between the reiki and the pilates
Trying to find an existential voice

And other poets are grim Morlocks, almost,
Through muscling chaos into meaning and light
Between the night shift and the morning cup
Trying to build a voice that speaks with strength

To shape lack of meaning into meaning
That is neither this nor that, but itself


Every Poem is a Translation

Wordsworth considered his rainbow up on high
And what he saw and felt through it, he wrote –
Translating an arc of refracted light
Into a transcendent vision of life

But his considerations through paper and ink
Are but darkness and silence without readers
Because the rainbow needs our vision, our joy
Without which there is no rainbow at all

We open the book, the page, the words, the light
To find the rainbow that he wrote to us


Poetry as a Form of Prayer
(not an original observation, but let it stand)

Poetry is like prayer
A lifetime of study
and a study of life

You never get it right
The only miracle
is that you get it at all


Behold!

A story requires an occasional “Behold!”
Merely to see the magic is not enough
The children do not merely see Aslan
Nor does Uncle Andrew merely see the witch

Behold!

A story requires an occasional “Behold!”
Merely to see the Truth is not enough
The Magi do not merely see the Star
Nor do the shepherds merely see the Child

Behold!

A story requires an occasional “Behold!”
Or else the magic isn’t truly told

Behold!


Does Cambridge Have a Comma Too?

Oh, Oxford Comma, let all hail to thee
You sorter-out of tidy sequencings
Who suffer not confusion in categories
And marshal your strong words in battle lines

Oh, Cambridge, poor Cambridge, you have not
A comma of your own; your sequencings
Were lost among the fens in Hereward’s days –
You might want to go a-fishing for them

Oh, sure, Cambridge,

You have your arts and poetry and drama
But only Oxford boasts her very own comma

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