ARISEN

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Easter Sunday
Woodbury, Tennessee
The year of our Lord Nineteen Eighty-Something
Sunny, swirling pinkish clouds overcast
Too many patrons for the old Church upon that Hill to contain

Outside service
Just this one time a year
Even Dad’s there, though it’s not a swipe at God
But rather the denomination
A Baptist married to a Church of Christ-coin toss lost

Kids fidget
In new itchy pastel dresses and suits
Especially this one, dragging his feet all the way to town
An Easter basket that morn
Full of chocolate candy and a toy helps the day go down

Sunday dinner
At Granny and Pa’s
Became the highlight as time went on
When I couldn’t be forced
Into itchy new suits, polaroids or a doctrine’s narrow walls

Good Friday
Her Saints presiding o’er
Our troubled years struggling as we make passage
Unlike the Rebel Jesus
Lucky for us no one wrote about our rambunctious years

Grandpa Bryson
And Grandma, from the Elkin’s clan
Reside o’er a feast held for a mob of hungry freckled kids
The Irish, Scots and English
Have all made peace in our blood as we break bread

Ides of March
Are now past us this Spring
Wild rabbits after a long winter ready to play
Tornadoes buzz
But we are arisen, Oh Lord are we arisen

~Stephen Simmons

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SUNDOWNERS

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The days last gasp
Of honey and amber streaked across the sky
Squeezed out of sundown
Reflecting down the highway
Lighting up the high wire lines

Stretched out like a golden lasso
Reaching around the Earth
And if you could wrap it all the way around this world
It would finally have to tell you the truth

The Sundowners beginning to mumble
The morning’s coffee pot stale
The smell of dried bacon grease from the morning’s breakfast
The crickets beginning their evening serenade

A hide and seek sunset teasing you the day wasn’t good enough
As if to say “wait…not yet”
Till peekaboo’s light streaks sneak behind the tree line finally
“Ok, now I’m through”
It’s time for the night to see what it can do

~Stephen Simmons

DECORATION DAYS

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DECORATION DAYS

We met on Memorial Day weekend
In the year of our turmoil, 2008
In a rather unlikely place
Somehow at the beginning of summer
Love managed to bloom
Under an unaffected Missouri Moon

I am more or less the same as I was then
Just nine fewer years of behaving the same way
I still drink and too much red wine still gives me migraines
And I still like to drink too much of everything
But I promise I am trying to stay off the whiskey these days

She taught me about elephants and Big Sur
I taught her about George Jones, Guy Clark and Bukowski
I walked by my bedroom door one day
She was on her knees fixing her hair in the full length mirror
She looked up and said “what?”
I was staring
I could not get the words, floating in the thought bubble above my head out into existence,
They choked me, startled me
“I’m gonna marry this girl someday”

I called you crying when I lost my Grandfather
Though I knew you were still mad at me
He was a veteran of the Great War
My link to that greatest generation
He will always have to share this holiday with you
One might bicker or quibble and take issue
But he was fond of you and definitely would approve

Yet now here I am more than a day late and a dollar short
This proverbial “One that got away” is more of a whopper than the one that gave Jonah a ride for forty nights and forty days
There is a new baby elephant on the way
But it’s not mine

From the stage at Mojo’s
To sunset goodbyes on the Katy Trail
To nights at Half Moon Bay
And falling in love with that silly black dog

Yes, many days late and many dollars short
Nine more years of living life the same way
Continuing to pour life’s blood oil down in that funnel
Trying to keep the engine reliably running
Always in fear of it overheating, locking up, stranding me on the side of that blue highway

So go out America
Grill your hamburgers and hotdogs and drink your domestic light beers
And raise a toast
And let’s all go decorate our graves

~Stephen Simmons

LOOKING FOR THE TRUTH

LOOKING FOR THE TRUTH

I have been looking for the truth
As a child it was everywhere
It danced on my shoulders late at night
While I drew
And made up characters and stories
Till someone made me go to bed

It pushed me alone in the woods
To explore the next creek
The next clearing, the next rock to climb up to
The next entrance to a long forgotten cave
It knew what I loved
It gave me confidence that I knew what I loved
And what loved me

But then it started leaving me
And I saw less and less of it
It still came around every now and then
Late at night in the Factory working alone during college
In the mountains of Asheville with my best friend
When my first nephew was born
As an adult it has been much more difficult to find
I caught a glimpse of it again in the mountains above Milan in Italy
The one year anniversary of 9/11 in the bottom of a bottle of Canadian whiskey
Staring at a blank television screen
Lying on my back on the side of the road in Oklahoma staring at the stars
With a broke down van and Jimmy Webb singing in the background
like some Phantom of an Okie Opera
Staring out at the ocean off Highway One in Northern California
In the tasseled blonde locks on a girl who had no idea
Just how fast the Earth was falling beneath my feet
On a stage in Holland with a guitar in my hand
On top of a mountain in Idaho with old friends and the wind whispering lyrics in my ear
It seems these days it’s easiest to find up high on a mountain
Or near the water
Or family

There is a corrosion with age that occurs in our connective tissue
It slows down the truth trying to feed us through its’ conduit
Slowing down our ability to connect us to our source
Don’t slow down
Don’t

~Stephen Simmons

WELCOME, PLEASE PLACE YOUR BETS

From the instant our little spirit decides

“Fuck it” and bolts for the womb’s door

And ole sawbones welcomes us to this World with a smack on the ass

We suck in all it’s pain and glory

Burning our tiny lungs

Earth’s oxygen

For the very first time

 

Beginning here

It’s all one magnificent gamble

A dizzying, ever-expanding, incomprehensible Roulette Wheel

 

But why we so fret a game played on the house’s money

Is beyond me

 

 
~Stephen Simmons

ALL THESE REUSABLE THINGS

People’s lives are lived here
On these floors
Between these walls
Different sheets of wallpaper
With different coats of paint

But the same joists
The same plywood
Same old wiring
Decaying
The same species of rats
Chewing on their connections
Behind the moldy sheet rock

Rolling on these same rugs
On these same box springs
Different mattresses
Different sheets
Different lovers
Different dreams

The same cries
The same moans
Same release
I love You
Baby
Honey
Please don’t leave
Good Morning

And the same stoves
A diner cooked between two young lovers
A warmed up meal
For a late working spouse
A lonely bachelor
A beer and a T.V. Diner
A house full of kids
Screaming for their mac and cheese
Spaghetti
And a dirty apron on a tired Mother

The same glasses
Celebrating an anniversary
Sipping cheap wine
A man with a woman who isn’t his wife
Glasses go in a thrift store
Different people drink
Feeling and toasting different things

But it’s not up to the glasses
Not up to the floor
Not up to the record player
Or the store, the walls, the carpet or the paint
Life goes on
None of these things can move or crawl
As the human drama continues to unfold
Act by act
Until the day it can all be given back to the cockroaches

Stephen Simmons

5 Days

5 DAYS

We can’t believe you’re not famous
They say
Sometimes they predict
Indeed
That I will be one day

Well
I say
Not really saying anything
Of any consequence anyway
As they hand me tens and twentys
As I ask them if they need change

Sometimes they offer me a place to stay
Sometimes the girls are cute
And they flirt with me when their boyfriends look away
And sometimes I go home with them and it’s good
And sometimes I find out later
In some bar
In some drunken display
That they too had a boyfriend
One particularly full of jealous rage
Tricked into some part in their dramatic play

And sometimes I stay
If I can
Maybe for a day
Before I say I have to leave
To be on my way

Once I stayed for five days
But it usually doesn’t happen that way
First I was drunk
Then I was hungover
And then sick
And she made me her Mother’s Chicken Soup
And then it was a Holiday
Memorial Day
And before I could get away I’d contracted a severe case
Of  what we observe as pair bonding
In mice and other whiskered species
Love
The way we lowly humans refer to it these days

She didn’t want anything more from me
Than I wanted from her
And for her kindness and Chicken Soup
She asked for not a thing in return
Probably because she asked nothing of me
It was so easy to give to her
Everything

But now I sit at home
Watching re-runs of Cowboys shooting each other in the street
And I drink 4 Roses Bourbon
Nice and neat
Remembering 5 days

~Stephen Simmons

MODERN DAY EVES

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MODERN DAY EVES

They leave little pieces of themselves everywhere
These modern day Eves

In one moment
You can recall the taste of her mouth
In one stray case of red lipstick
Found underneath the blue reclining couch

Or the touch of her warm black skin
And grabbing her thick braided hair
As you’re down on your knees in the bedroom
Picking up something you dropped there
And finding one of her stray hair-beads instead

And I drop them all into a little box
Given to me by an English girl with big blue eyes who did improv
On my 28th birthday
Because she thought I needed a place for all of my plectrums
But it’s her (or any of the others) I always fear will pop out when I lift up the top

But the toughest things are all of these stray marks
They are not under the blue couch or in the bedroom floor
And they won’t fit neatly into a tiny box
They are left somewhere in the vicinity of your heart
Forever branded somewhere into your skull

Still
I’m pretty sure there’s a serpent
And a half-eaten-rotting-apple core
In here
Somewhere

~Stephen Simmons

 

BEAUTIFUL MESS

BEAUTIFUL MESS
She is gone
And I’m lying here in her bed
With the taste of her coffee and chapstick
Still on my lips
The cat seems immune
But the dog looks at me as if:
“What now?”She is the one I love
One of the few things I ever truly have
And yet
This is not allowed
To blossom
To grow
Any further
Than this rainy January day
This day after her twenty-sixth birthday
In this empty California apartment
Underneath this cold, grey cloudAnd I sit here like the dumb school child
Who twirls his pencil
Not because he’s thinking
But because he doesn’t know the answers
He didn’t study for the testWill this ever come back around?
You know sometimes they do
And if indeed I ever were to desire
How could I get from here?
Lying in bed with matted, greasy hair
Lying under these dirty sheets
With the cat perched atop my stomach
And that sad, worried dog’s stare
To there?
A place beyond
“You lied”
Well…
“You cheated”
Well…
“I hate you”
(and) “I’ll never forgive you”
Back to laughter and long legs wrapped around my waist
To a beautiful warm smile
And tassled hair
Lit by the Sun’s glow
Yes, if so then…
How?Still the dog looks at me as if:
“What in the Hell do we do now?”
And we both stare into each other’s dark eyes
Looking for reassurance
About this whole beautiful mess
Neither of us making
Much damn progress~Stephen Simmons

Born With A Mind

BORN WITH A MIND

I was born with a mind
That will not be quiet
So I read, I write, I process
And all that it requires

I was born with a mind
That will not let me sleep
So I pour another drink
As he only ignores my pleas

I was born with a mind
That becomes obsessed and burns white hot
And when focused will burn anything
If I leave it on that spot

I was born with a mind
That’s worried permanent wrinkles in my brow
Anxiously fretting unchangeable things
That leave me with this permanent scowl

I was born with a mind
That does not let me rest – yet
I’m tired and wish I could sleep
If only I could get some peace and quiet – yes?




~Stephen Simmons