The beat and the blood

4 train at Grand Central 42nd Street

I

In the hazy beginnings

And endings

Of days

Run,

Blood in these veins

Driven by beat

Mechanical

And beat divine

Subway wall

And station hall

Prophets change

Salvation

To bread

Their words run

Through me

As the drums

Pump youth

Through tunnels

Dying to be young

Steaming

Steel

Souls and bodies

Minds and wits

And dancing feet

Slipping on tile

Spilling hot and red

To the surface

To sacrifice their heat

To wintry breath

Through the veins

I run

The blood

Through hazy beginnings

And neon endings

Of days

To the place

Where the prophets

Fall silent

And all is flesh

And madness

And time’s jealous eye

And the beat

And the bodies

And the youth

Run steaming

Through gutters

Stopped up with

New-fallen snow

Cigarette butts

Nips and buds

And dancing feet

From the moon

They come

These feet to run

In these veins

And spill in

These streets

Driven, dying

By this beat

Through brilliant frozen

Midnights

Of surrection

Oblivious

To the neon beginnings

And endings

Of days

.

By Jason Anderson

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Protests, Paper Hearts and Fireflies

Newport RI fireworks, July 4, 2004

Photo: author

This isn’t quite as somber as the past few — sorry, it kind of slipped out. I don’t know if it’s my best, but I think it’s my favorite so far. I don’t have kids, but if I ever do I’ll make sure they know this. And wear hats and gloves in the winter.

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Protests, Paper Hearts and Fireflies

Playing on a snowy evening with stars in your hair

And a half-moon strung from the tip of your nose

Ever in motion, a grace for all seasons

In January a radical, protesting hats and scarves and demanding the fall of snow

Giving your hearts in February, a ritual you perform with more earnestness than understanding

Embattled like a general in March, making the most of melting resources

Smiling when I tell you the April songbirds returned just to laugh at your jokes

A May basket-case, so full of summery anticipation you can’t decide what to do first

A June jitterbug, so full of summery freedom you can’t decide what to do next

Benevolent in July, pardoning her fireflies after they’re tried

In August seeking cool refuge in pools, and books, and other floating worlds

Mourning the end of the world each September, and

Peering over a pencil eraser in the aftermath, at summer’s October tears on the window

Peeling November’s noreast leaves from your bright face

And gorging on December, that double cheeseburger, that ice cream sundae of a month

That finales in fireworks(!), then dissolves once more to protests, paper hearts and fireflies.

How many more cycles? No one can tell, nor what they’ll bring

I’ve had thirty-one more than you, and this is my wisdom, the sum:

You are always in motion, but in all seasons grace

Bundle up in the cold ones, jump in puddles in the wet ones

And remember the singing birds laugh just for you.

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©2013 Jason Anderson

The Three Last Poems of Winter

1.

How easy it is to miss a life

Counting and counting my own small pile of days

Like a child hoards pieces of candy

Reluctant to consume one

And have less.

.

2.

We are, like the winds, born

In the tiniest disturbance of matter

And when we end where do we go?

We go where the winds end

When they die.

.

3.

Darkest isn’t black but shades of periwinkle and twilight

When lights that could be on are off and almost but not all is quiet

Dark is an unplugged Christmas tree, or a part-burnt candle unlit

Or when the power’s out and you throw a light switch

Eyes dead: that’s as dark as anything can get.

.

©2013 Jason Anderson

Killing time

A little essay on living in the moment, or somewhere nearby.

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with time. When I was young, time seemed to stand between me and everything I wanted: an exciting field trip, my 10th birthday, Christmas… I’ve counted down so many days I’ve lost count. Inevitably Day Zero passed in the blink of an eye, and most of the zeroes have disappeared to wherever memories go when they don’t make the cut. And so began a new countdown to a new Day Zero.

On the other hand, time is a tonic for wounds both physical and emotional. I believe that sometimes time is the only thing that dulls pain’s blade, and all the other things I do to “heal” are really just to distract myself and let time do its work. Maybe it’s a combination of both, but where all else fails time is the true medic. The human body and mind have an innate capacity to heal — it’s what they do naturally — and time is the medium in which they work.

Killing time, whether until excitement or healing, comes with a cost. Killing time is actually a wonderful way to put it: it’s dead. It ain’t coming back, no, no not ever. Yesterday I was an eight year old in Virginia, slithering through an impossibly slender gap under a fence to play fort on someone’s wooded land with my friends in the summer. Today I’m in Providence, RI pushing forty and trying to estimate my last quarterly tax payment for the year.  And I’ve come to two conclusions. One, it was thirty-one years ago that I slithered under fences. Two, it was also only yesterday.

The earth cooled sometime last midnight when I was driving home from from Thanksgiving dinner, and the pyramids were built as I made coffee this morning. What makes this all possible in the physical world is time. It spaces things out in existence as reliably as length or height, just in an ephemeral way that baffles my consciousness. My memory is a device that records everything in the same spot, throwing out time to save storage space. It’s easy to forget how long it took for everything in my memory to happen, and easier to forget that an astonishing portion of my life has been archived. It didn’t make the cut. That time’s blood is on my hands.

Whether a minute takes a second or an eternity to pass is entirely up to my human brain. I can savor a day or simply count it, waiting it to get over with or waiting for a day I’d prefer to be living right now. Either way it passes, and if there’s nothing in my memory to keep it alive, it’s truly and irrevocably gone. For much of my life I did everything I could NOT to live in the moment.

Today I seem to be less willing to sacrifice moments, days or entire years waiting for something more exciting — or just waiting to feel better. I’ve learned the only way out of something is through it, and the way through it exists only in the present moment. Like a gap under a summer fence I slithered under just yesterday.