what will your verse be?

My brother and I have probably watched Mrs. Doubtfire over a hundred times. We had a VHS copy of the movie and would always pop it in and enjoy Robin Williams as he entertained us. His name was synonymous with comedy, and he brought an electric energy to the screen, whether it was in the flesh as in Jumanji, Hook, and Good Will Hunting, or as an animated Genie in Aladdin.

One of the movies that impacted me most in high school was Dead Poet’s Society. It revealed how a teacher could inspire students, and reminded me how poetry and literature aren’t empirical categories, but the natural and necessary result of being human. That “words and ideas can change the world!”

And it left me with the question, “What will your verse be?”

 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams. O Captain! My Captain! Your legacy lives on.

roll away your stone

In a black and white world, most of us live in the gray. In a black and white world, music and poetry explore the gray.

Much has been said and written about the themes of religion and faith woven into the lyrics of the band Mumford and Sons, but much has also been debated about where their faith stands. I don’t want to argue about whether they’re Christian or not, but their lyrics are some of the most thought-provoking ones out there.

“You told me that I would find a hole

Within the fragile substance of my soul

And I have filled this void with things unreal

And all the while my character it steals”

There are echoes of Ecclesiastes where the Preacher writes that God has set eternity in our hearts, but perhaps more so, the famous words of Blaise Pascal when he wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” We try to fill the deep longings and desires of our hearts with everything we can find, thinking surely something will satisfy and fill the hole, but it’s like throwing fistfuls of sand into the Grand Canyon. You will never fill the hole. But worse, the things we try to fill the hole with actually do us more harm than good —  it steals our character.

Darkness may be a harsh term, and it may have dominated the things I’ve seen. But the grace that changed my heart with the welcome I received at the restart ensures I don’t stay in darkness.

Leben Lane

there is a house that sits on the end of Leben Lane
a triple-tiered behemoth atop the hill on Leben Lane
long lay the house in ruin and decay
empty and forlorn for not a one would stay
the sacred cannot be found on this part of the lane
but the unholy traverse, celebrating the profane

careful, my dear
careful, my dear
you mustn’t get too near

where specters sing unholy songs and witches dine with priests
where angels and devils join for tea and saints and sinners have feasts
through It’s broken eyes you can see them dance
floating and gliding in a languid trance
goblins and ghouls singing heinous hymns outright;
a million voices ringing through the house, echoing through the night

careful, my dear
careful, my dear
you mustn’t get too near

there is a house that sits on the end of Leben Lane
a temple where prayers and crying never wane
and in the witching way of things sublime
the house on Leben transcends space and time
jerking souls to seek penance for sins unwanted
baby, its more than houses that are haunted

careful, my dear
careful, my dear
you mustn’t get too near

there Love defined

Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, “A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.”

there Love defined

 

a curious day ’twas today
that found desire and drive allayed!
the earth lay washed in amber tones,
the air hung thick, heavy with storm
and as men oft do in such times
i gazed into the cloudy sky
to calculate the mystery
of life, death, and eternity
and as i mused the mystery
i saw an angel by the tree
“why do you look for answers here?
seek Love,” he said, and disappeared

 

set out, did i, to find such Love,
yet tales and myth were not enough
as dross, i flung what i had found,
resolved that Love was not around
i scoffed the fable men did trust
while bastioned doubt became my trust.
fierce nimbus bore above my walls
and rain so sinister did fall;
high did the water rise before
i found my circumstances poor;
so feebly struggled i against
the overwhelming current spent

 

then certain of my wretched fate,
i ceased, to let death have its way,
when through the murky waters cut
a hand that reached beyond my heart
into a place unknown and cold,
lifted me up beyond the flood.
and suddenly i found there land
there bathed in warm and piercing sun
where touched the hand, there burned a flame
so searing and beyond known pain
yet pleasant was it all the while,
and coursing joy replaced the vile

 

a wondrous sight my eyes beheld
a sight too beautiful to tell
a peace unknown o’ertook my mind
for there it was, there Love defined

Dreams of Yesterday

yesterday i soared through clouds of cotton
a chariot of wind beneath my feet
a symbol was i to raise hope in men
cowering behind an impenetrable sheet

yesterday i dreamt the world a stage grand
upon which i played the grandest of roles
i took a bow and drank the world’s applause
safely behind my persona’s eye holes

yesterday brought an angel to my room
sweetly smiling and sitting on the floor
i asked her, “why so far from heaven’s throne?”
“to chase what i can no longer ignore”

yesterday a thief broke into my dream
and reached into the inner parts of me
grabbed what he found, threw it in the air
secrets laid bare for all the world to see

yesterday the end of the world came by
knocking on my door, and asked for a hand
“not today,” said i, “its not a good day”
and the lad went on to ravage the land

yesterday found a bartender in my dream
i asked for a drink, one to remember
he asked, “what about one to forget?”
slid me one that knocked me till december

yesterday deception kissed me on the mouth
and took me to her bed of craft and guile
she said, “baby, I make the world go ‘round”
and then swallowed me, laughing all the while

today the glass was empty; the mask fell
and the lad thrust a green spear into my skin
the thief discovered hidden deception
and the angel went back to what she had been

the heart

as i was walking down the street today
i met a man with a familiar face
“let me show you the future, now, and past”
he said and pulled his heart out of his chest

the purple mass beat with feeble will
as weary strength betrayed the gentle swell
and in the midst i saw it all
the story of lived life, i saw it all

a vein that still pulsed shallow blood
from eyes that reflected a fabled world
the shadow of a wistful smile haunting,
the compass ever to true north pointing

night and day, the story of Time
dreams and failures, their verses intertwined
with the song of a bitter, lonely man
all within the fibers of this organ

the wrinkled finger explored the flesh
roaming along whilst the blood flowed fresh
an image from a time that had once been
a boy and his pen in a time forgotten

as i pondered the object in my hand
i turned to question the familiar man
but he was already walking away
and the hole in my chest will not go away

the poet’s perspective

I’ve always had a fascination with the written word. From my literary lust as a child to my obsession over lyrics, I’ve known that words, especially those in print, hold such a captivating power! They can produce joy, disappointment, heartbreak, wonder, suspense and more… All within the time it takes for your mind to process it.

When I was 10 years old, my cousin and pen-pal wrote to me with a Thanksgiving poem she had penned.

I was floored.

It was good stuff! At least I remember it to be good stuff, I could hardly believe that 9 year old Alisha had written so eloquently. At least it seemed eloquent in my decade-old mind. I determined to do the same, to churn out poems that would make me feel eloquent. Poems that tugged at the heart. So I remember writing three. Three pieces that touched on nature, Christianity, and my move from New York to Texas.

I’m sure I have them tucked into some drawer or file in my room, but I dare not retrieve them. Just thinking about them makes me cringe. I won’t get into the details… But let’s just say that I rhymed “New York” with “metal fork”. Yeesh.

When I was in middle school, some of my cousins were in a Christian hip-hop group and I devoured their lyrics, writing and re-writing them in school notebooks, fascinated by the way they seemed to flow. I had aspirations to become a rapper myself, trying to pen my own lyrics. I won’t get into those details either.

Then came high school. Somewhere between my Junior and Senior years, I tapped into a deeper reserve. I found a well of complex emotion, sentiment, and the stuff that feels. The stuff that made you want to cry when you fell and scraped your knee as a kid, or held captive your breath as you viewed a sunset. The stuff that isn’t really emotion and isn’t really sentiment, and yet it is sort of like emotion and sentiment.

And like a volcano that isn’t dormant anymore, it exploded and overflowed onto paper.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. Lines and couplets on scraps of paper that are either long gone or tucked loosely into a red folder I keep on my bookshelf. Alliteration and rhymes and free verse and form. Some of it was good; most of it wasn’t. But I found that poetry gave me an opportunity to step out of myself and view myself as a third party. Except I was a third party in the know. I was altogether separate, yet connected to the person who wrote verses and rhymes.

The curious thing about poetry is its layers. Now, some will tell you that good poetry should not be ambiguous, but I dare to disagree. Yes, I think poetry should convey a message, but that message is not always direct or explicit. A good poem takes you beyond the surface, beyond what is verbally written, and invites you to explore the shadowed catacombs beneath the surface of versed city. A good poem draws you in and makes you feel.

My poetry is my attempt to understand. Understanding myself, understanding the world, understanding God. Understanding the place where my brokenness is touched my Christ’s completeness.

I’ll post some of my poems from time to time. Not because I hope someone will magically find them and print them in some magazine. But because I think all of us want to be known. Not just through status updates or tweets. But to be known. I think we all have a part of ourselves that wants to scream and shout, “Look at me! This is the real me! Not the mask I put on every morning! But the me who hurts and loves and is messy! Sing it out, OneRepublic! I want to give all my secrets away!

And frankly… This is the best I know how.

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”
– T. S. Eliot