The Burning Covenant

Do you fear it?

What breathes beyond this world’s veil

Do you think of it?

Or are thoughts of it beyond the pale?

Do you have love for it?

The actions and movements of your life

Are you at peace with it?

Or does considering it cause you strife

Will you pray for me?

In those moments when you do

Will I reciprocate?

This I wish to do for you

If the bullets fly

Will you hold my hand?

If the rains wash us away

Can we drag each other to land?

Will you remember my name?

When you slowly come awake

You say you wish to start anew?

I give you my name and heart to take

Let us come to new terms

Define ourselves in different ways

Let us make a new covenant

And set the long broken one ablaze

Gene G. McLaughlin 2017

Winsome

Winsome.
That’s how she described the Western North Carolina Mountains. How she spoke of them as the train rolled up the tracks laboring against the increase in elevation. I didn’t know what the word meant. She often used words I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter much to me. I liked the pleasure she took in saying them. The way there was almost a spark in the air in front of her lips as they came out of her mouth.

Murky.
That’s the way she described the French Broad River as we rode by it in our carriage. This word I knew and I agreed with her as we watched the water flow by. The spring rains had made the water fast and cold. The driver told us the river was an old one, and I took him at his word. It felt old that day. It is possible it felt that way because I felt old. Sometimes it is difficult to disentangle descriptions of such things.

Charming.
That’s how she described the building when we arrived. I could understand why she said this. It was the best we could afford. The elements that made up the word charming were present in the building. I said nothing, not wanting to darken the mood or any positive thoughts she had. There are times when your thoughts run counter to a loved one’s and the best course of action is silence. Charming was not my word for it. Not my word at all.

Palliative.
That’s the word he used when we sat in the leather chairs of his office. We heard the familiar sound of coughing in the distance. Neither one of us had heard the word before, but we both understood what it meant. His eyes and posture said what it meant. It was a promise and apology of sorts combined as one word. We had known this was the case without knowing the word, but all had to be explained. All always had to be explained. Words used as braces and props, pinned, not stitched, to an unnamed thing.

Rhododendron.
That’s what they called the flowers that surrounded the hills behind the sanitarium and bloomed in the early summer. We knew them from other places, but not like these. They were vibrant and strong and had no qualms about the fickle weather of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We held hands and looked at them saying little most nights. Words were scarce by then.

Riverside.
That’s the name of the place I buried her. It was late fall and leaves around me were bright and brilliant. In those days, the cemetery did brisk business and I was not the only mourner. I don’t know if it was easier on me or harder, knowing it had been coming for so long. I only have the words to describe what I encountered along the way. I try to speak them with a spark like her. Not yet, though. Not yet.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2017

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN

I am not a music critic and don’t have the best language for this, but I am going to attempt to tell you why the new #KendrickLamar album is so remarkable. Imagine when you are 16 years old you try something. You are a natural and over 10 years you become the best in the world at it. At some point in the future you are 29 and you learn all the success in your life is based on one choice made 25 years ago. This choice had nothing to do with you. It was arbitrary. You realize there were different possible versions of you based on this choice. Permutations that existed, but didn’t come to be. You decide to undertake an exercise of extreme empathy and make a record based on a version of you who had to deal with the opposite of the choice that was made. The record you make #DAMN represents how narrow the window of possibilities is that we slip through is and how many other possible versions of us exist. For some they are better for some they are worse, but they always exist. In my own life I sometimes feel the echoes and reverberations other versions of me would have dealt with, but I never did. Those tales become coiled in my head despite their non-existence. It is powerful to hear one such tale recorded over 80 minutes.

– Gene Mclaughlin May 2017

Resurrection Esoterica

What happens when the mysteries dry up?

The questions you had

When it began

Today

Solemnly

Watching the cars go by

Metal birds without song

What do they sound like

To the robin soaring above?

To him

Below are quarries and mines

Hot pavement

Metals stones glass and heat

Specks of seed, trees and meat

Loss dots this world

Like flowers in a field

Constant in its attempts

To crack through

To claim

To conquer

To forget

Everything is reborn

That the robin can see

The nature of everything

Twists deforms destroys dies and denies

That its time is over

Or at least the question it posed

Is answered

To some

Resurrection is the birth

Of questions without answers

The placement of layers

Around the core

Waiting

For when the blank slate of inquiry

Begins it again

Gene G. McLaughlin 2017

A Poem That Makes Me Think of the 20th Century