Ides of March

After a year everything seems the same
except the light in this room keeps changing.
On sunny days it reflects from the neighbor’s
garage, so people and cars cast shadows
on the ceiling and the walls.
I live in Plato’s Cave.

Now there must be clouds moving in
to block the sun. Yes, but here it comes
again, the light on this page, and then
it’s gone. The bands of brightness
on the ceiling flash and my pencil
moves across the paper,
signifying time.

In the room the shadows come and go
and are your people still alright?
And have you had your shots?
Then here comes spring with plans
to travel, feel the world go warm again,
which in our case we have not got.

I have been indoors too long, alone.
But that will be my story; it has always
been my story: How I outlived the year
to see today amidst
the boredom and the horror and the glory.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

First Covid Elegy

Half a million are dead in America
and what is a poet supposed to say?

We have only words,
only the icons of grief.

I have this pencil and paper,
so small in a world which I thought

was benign, beautiful and interlaced with light.
I have never felt more useless

except that I can offer what’s holy.
I can utter the word Love and hope

that somewhere on the Earth
a bell happens to ring

or a meadowlark cries out in wonder.
I’m sorry I don’t have more to give

except maybe to say
May they rest in peace.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

February Moon

I feel sad. How can they say that love
exists only now, only today,
when I know I need to love you
tomorrow, as I have since we met?
And I know it’s been years.
If nothing else, the turning planet
proves it: Time is created by motion
and by the rhythm of a beating heart.
Some days, everything is reduced
to this, and to expectations – the
process of diagnostics. Hope exists
just in the future, whether the future
is real or not. The Now isn’t always
a place to call home.


I feel sad. Stuck in the future again.
And don’t even mention the crows
or the ocean this time.
Nothing is rising and falling all night
under a February moon or alighting
on some trembling branch of faith.
It just is what it is and I’m tired
of Fear stopping by to spoil the music
and the softened light of winter days.
I’m just sad because everything
worth loving and holding tight
with joy and gratitude is fragile,
and mortal and precious, like you.

Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving
that transcends dimensions of time and space.
Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it
.
– Interstellar

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Breathing

Breathe in and whisper God.
Breathe out and cry Oh World.
Then sigh oh short winter grass.
There is nothing we ought to do
so be still, be a creature believed
by God, before He set the Earth
to spin and Time to walk.
And what might walk the other way?
Death is too easy to write – on a page
we see it circling overhead, a flock
of dark wings. The winter sky is bright
but pale and we see the walker
coming straight ahead,  
never tiring, never sleeping, day and night.
It only slows to listen if we sing.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

How to Make a Ghost

“In life, only the small details
are worth weeping over.”
— Phaedrus

Here comes that old ghost again.
up from the backyard grass
like a whisp of sandalwood
also orange blossom drifting
from the corner of the yard.

The ghost shimmers back and forth
to get my attention.

It is the time I killed a sparrow
with my BB gun. Fifty years
and I don’t still know why
except I thought that’s what you do
with such a thing.

I didn’t know what death is,
that it’s always personal.
Only two events are in the world,
without exception.

The bird wasn’t finished with living
and very confused, frightened.
So was I. We met in the sunlight
and made a ghost.

There is no such thing as an unloaded
gun or a small cruelty. So we are still there,
still terrified on the razor of time because
this is what plagues and haunts us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Sunbright

I’ve decided to post this even though, as a poem, I think it lacks cohesion. I just feel like sharing this facet of my emotional life these days. On the night I wrote this, I felt like being experimental, whatever that means. The Wasteland was rumbling around in my brain. Also Kierkegaard. And I was thinking that we can be aware of events happening to other people, but ultimately every event in life happens to me. All experience is subjective.

Sunbright

1 Fear and Trembling

Hurry up, please. It’s time.
The governor has set a curfew now.

I had not thought Death had undone so many.
I mean Old Mr. Death, the Old Man.
The proprieties must be observed.

He stands on a hill outside town –
the insatiable wind.

He stands at the end of the street –
dogs barking.

He stands in the door of your kitchen –
the oven goes cold.

2 The Sickness

We who were living are now becalmed
in the currents of time.

We who are dying are impatient to escape
this vessel on the wind.

Why is there nowhere dark enough for rest?
The sun is vulgar to a man who would be free.

Pray for us sinners, now and until
the Old Man comes.

3 Unto Death

Pale hands at absolute zero
then whispers in the empty rooms.

May the judgment not be too heavy
upon us.

Hoarfrost – all of the flowers in your garden
are sleeping in a mist of tears.

A million dead? Oh no, far more. So count
the bodies all night long

then in the morning, sunbright gulls
on the peak of the roof.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

How Much Love

I would like to give you a gift.
Here’s everything I can remember,
if I can find a vessel to hold it.
I imagine a mason jar
that once held Grandma’s jelly,
or the wooden bowl my brother
made in shop class,
almost 40 years ago.
How many thoughts can fit in such a space?

I ought to remember a lot of my life
but it seems that everything collapses
as it dries, becoming smaller
before it blows away.
So you should be able to carry this home.
Leave it in a place where there is light
in the afternoon, where birds can be heard
in the morning. Sometimes it will bring
shadows and rain, but often it will shine.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

AT 3AM WITH THE MOON HOVERING

he sits up on the edge of the bed
and wonders what his soul looks like.
He’s never seen it himself, but other people do,
when he makes them laugh or causes pain.

No one will describe his soul to him,
so he imagines a green light hovering – a tiny
beacon in the air – just there in the center
of the room. It follows him everywhere,

retreating to safety when he’s angry,
looking out windows while he speaks.
He should be ashamed. So long now
since his soul was put to use.

When the moon sets and the sun appears
to lead us through another day of plague
and fear, the little light that woke him up
will flicker there and fade away.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Remembering it Now

Alright, gentle readers. Gettin’ down to it. Gettin’ serious. “Because here we were dealing with the pit and prune juice of poor Beat life itself, in the godawful streets of Man.”
– Kerouac

____________________________________

Remembering it Now

My bicycle is gone, the one with the banana
seat, hand brakes and handlebars
like rams’ horns, wrapped with yellow glitter tape.
It was 5 speed, which was boss in 1972.
Chased by a German Shepherd, I rode it
into a ditch. My mother rescued me.

Papa’s typewriter cannot be found,
a heavy old Royal with black
and red ribbon. No electricity required.
He let me play with it but he used it
to write letters about dogs — German Shepherds.
And dogs arrived and they were good
— his dogs didn’t chase children off the road.

Phone books are gone. Are they even
printed anymore? No need – all of the names
are lost to time and all of the time is lost
to suffering and fear. No one is even
naming the dead. I didn’t know Death
could take so many without bombs
or guns or a very good reason. Casus
belli. We’re going to need a bigger book.

Months and days and hours are gone,
disappeared in the tule fog of quarantine
and unknowing, and weeks of fear
and counting of the unremembered Dead.
The soul waits in a closet the back of the house,
with the sweaters we were wearing
when the world blew down.

All of the Kingdoms of Hope are gone,
all of the plans we had, the bright joyful
memories of time to come.
Who can remember Christmas in a plague?
How we met back in 2020, and we hugged,
hands around the table. In the kitchen,
side by side. We hoped!
We remembered a future more bright
than it ever could have been.

So any time you want to weep for all
that is gone, brothers and sisters, I’ll join you.
From hopefully safely now and here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

In a World

Isn’t it strange
to be in a world,
especially this one?

I’m in the world
with its terrible events
though I never dreamed
there could be plague again
but also waterfalls
that no one ever sees.

You’re in the world
with its beautiful elephants
so you never dreamed
there could be all this anger still
and also people who
almost never dream.

Isn’t it strange
to be human forever,
especially weeping?

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

‘You are a little soul carrying about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.’

Marcus Aurelius

Counting the Dead

No one is talking about the Dead.
We’re just counting them.
Each day there are more and we think
it can’t get any worse, until they don’t
come back. So we keep counting the Dead.

People made memorials for the Dead
of 2001. Their names are etched in stone.
You can read them on the Internet.
At some point they were read aloud.
But that was only 2,600 Dead. .

We mourned. We wept and flew the flag
and vowed revenge. We didn’t understand
that Death is never satisfied.
We should start reading names today.
Too many Dead to carve in stone this time.

But we don’t call the Dead by name
or say what was done with their bodies,
memories, or redeemed of the time
they should have had to wait as days
of quiet life and love pass by.

We who are dying now will learn
the patience of stucco and sunlight
on glass. Some of us refuse.
There is no one they love enough
to sit in a room with their dust and be still.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Shelter

In the distance, someone beats
a great drum, coming nearer every day.
This old rhythm we don’t recognize,
the days of plague. Those who do not
learn from history are doomed.
Like birds driven earthward to shelter
under bushes by a storm, we wait
for abstract entities to pass.
Son of man, you cannot say or guess
how long. The clock reminds us,
drumming down the hours like high
surf pounding on the rocks.

I have lived in this room for years,
beneath its stucco laqueraria devoid
of cherubim or even birds.
The days called me out into the warm
sea air, to see the intimation of islands
beyond the eucalypti and the bluffs.
Now the invitation is withdrawn;
at least obscured, contingent
on a tolerance of sorrows.
I had not thought the sweet breeze
would rise and bring such sounds
of the inevitable world.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed