Two Poems by Ken Meisel

December 9th, 1980 

Red salvia, lime green chrysanthemum, 
lonesome pots of geraniums, browning,

slowly decaying in the cold wind, 
in the spotted, anemic sun, 

the alcohol of autumn’s mood
drowning the front lawn’s color,

rose daphne shrubs, changing their hue,
the orchestration of birds in the trees

carefully awakening the oak tree’s canopy,
the neighbor’s bullied gutter,

and, the soft, cracked egg of morning sun,
spilling over the old, hard-edged porches,

over rows of parked cars, the soft-drink ale
of morning, fizzling over Hamtramck, 

sad-like, lonesome, an effluvium of gloam
mixed in the morning’s flirtatious glitter,

and, the quick eruption of snow flurries –
winter white, a crystalline frizzante 

surrounding me, taking me over –
stirring me into wakefulness again 

as I step outside, smell the dawn,
take it deep into my nostrils.

The woman I left last night, already
a lost note of music, a transient feather

already taken by the evening’s
calving of moonlight, by the night’s 

twilight cave, by a Sagittarius moon,
and, John Lennon, murdered:  

shot dead outside the Dakota Hotel
by a man composed of fear –  

lost, erratic birds cloying at him,
tearing his mind from rim,     

a pistol rising from his hand
like a pointed deformity – 

and killing Lennon dead in a blunt,
pitter-patter of gun-shot-fire.

We listened to the news on the radio, 
sat there sipping our coffee 

at a kitchen table in Hamtramck, 
my brother and I, 

felt the first bite of winter, 
coming on.



Lord, you shoot your paintball color
              straight up through the petals  
                             of this orange lily

sprouting through cracked pavement  
              alongside the Temple Bar –
                            in Detroit – where I sit 

at a stool reading how the angry man
              shook his twenty one month old baby
                            back and forth 

like he was doing some kind of polka dance
              with her – until the baby lost
                            the light behind her 

daffodil face –
             and she dropped vacant
                           with the dull grace

of a pool hall ball. It makes no sense
             how the light explodes right through
                           the lily face – 

as if you, Lord, couldn’t quite recall
             how to shove the straw
                          of color into something

already alive and willing, a lily, oh Lord, 
              and so you did so violently,
                           abruptly – 

as if all life is in vivid color,
             fermented in holy fire,
                          some radiant limelight.

Even the shoeless woman
             fumbling with
                         the brown bag of liquor –

gulping it like she’s
             a vampire drinking
                           the red blood inside your

carotid arteries, rambles on
             about the mania
                           of the orange lilies 

growing from the forgettable
             side grass along the wall
                           of this bar, 

even as she grabs hold of one, 
               fingers it up to her mouth
                             like it’s a tootsie roll.

God, we become psychotic creatures
            when surrounded by

and beauty – like we’re attendees
             at some high school dance,
                           impulses raging –

and we don’t know what to do
             but yank at one another, 
                           stretch and pull

at one another,
             suck the temper of light
                           from mouths, 

like strings of taffy.
              Even the juke box can’t take it,
                            this song, Love Hurts.

Lord I remember her,
             my child, my fireball
                          of radiance

as she raced so fast
              across that park
                          where her mother 

and I were sitting together,
             trying to work back
                           into our marriage 

from some pull and tug  
             of a polka dance we were doing 
                           with each other,

because we couldn’t handle
              the taffy of romantic love,
                           just couldn’t.

And how that child raced up
             to greet us
                          on a summer night 

as the dusk marched in – 
             draping the monkey bars
                          in obsidian – 

and how her face, like an orange lily, 
             like a quick streak of light,
                         brightened up

with limelight – 
            glowed like a firefly
                        as she grabbed

hold of our necks to embrace us.
           And my wife and I
                       cried so hard

when she ran off to climb  
          the monkey bars. 
                      And we had a chance 

to watch her, and cry some more
          at how the moonlight
                     colored her orange

like a lovely lily as she played,
          while we made our way back in again,
                     to our romantic love.

We are swords of light, I fear,
         cutting one another
                     to bits.

We are the limelight that aches –
         as it cozies up against the side
                     of a wall – oh Lord of color.

Come back to me, sweet child
         who followed the moonlight,
                     rolled over in it: 

come back, and dance your festive
         dance of fireflies  
                     beneath the lonely stars – 

so that I can feel again the lullaby
        of your innocence: 
                    what you gave 

to your mother and me,
        as we watched you
                    dance, that night.

I long for it – this dance we do – 
        this limelight
                    that holds us tight. 

Ken Meisel is a 2012 Kresge Arts Literary Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, Swan Duckling chapbook contest winner, winner of the Liakoura Prize. His books are The Drunken Sweetheart at My Door (FutureCycle Press: 2015), Scrap Metal Mantra Poems (Main Street Rag: 2013), Beautiful Rust (Bottom Dog Press: 2009), Just Listening (Pure Heart Press: 2007), Before Exiting (Pure Heart Press: 2006) and Sometimes the Wind (March Street Press: 2002). He has work in Cream City Review, Rattle, Midwest Gothic, Concho River Review, San Pedro River Review, Boxcar Review, Firefly, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Lullwater Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Lake Effect.

Posted on April 24, 2017 .