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Poetry by John B. Lee

Last Evening
Celestial China
Lalo's Walls
Published November 13, 2016
Wax Poetry and Art: Poetry by John B. Lee
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Last Evening

we sat on the hill
overlooking the bay
and watched, keeping vigil
for the full promise
of a total lunar eclipse
the first of its kind in over thirty years
and we were anticipating how the moon
would vanish, darkening down
like the slow sliding over
of an optic lens
blurring the white circle
turning it blood orange
as it is with the fade of lamp glow
burning through gossamer autumn scrim
but here it was
a night of overcast
only a black-veiled widow visage
of reflected light visibly
piercing thin weather
blazing brilliant
through cloud gap
and then gone ghostly grey in vaporous
sweeps of wet web
we lost all hope of stars
in that gothic regard
for we were shrinking down to nothing
but a tree and a dog
and a man and a woman
seated together
in a pair of fan-backed Adirondack chairs
listening to willow whisper of a close at hand breeze
and the loud hush of the lake waves churning

Celestial China:

A contemplation on the first recorded appearance of Haley’s Comet in a
document called ‘The Silk Atlas’ nearly three thousand years ago …

the ancient Chinese astronomer
scribes a comet onto silk
the hand that understands the eye
then lifts away
from trails of light
he’s seen
as set in ink
upon the shiny worm-work
of his woven cloth

he’s satisfied
with proof of mind

the mystery of heaven’s
ice and dust                    a single
wave that breaks upon the roiling sea       the breath of wind
that briefly stirs one leaf
a bead of dew
that bends a solitary
blade of grass
and silvers on the green
in spheres that warm and vanish
into nothing much but this--

the silence
after life
that teaches thus

the moon reflects the sun
the river
sees the moon and flows away
as sunlight binds the stars
in all subsuming blue
and we regard
our life
like mirrors of the dead
that hold the face until the light is gone

Lalo’s Walls

the proud Peruvian
professor of anthropology
our tour guide Lalo
perseverates on the quality
of Incas architecture
pointing at the perfection
of walls
Machu Picchu
walls at Ollantaytambo
walls at Racchi
everywhere the great stones
fit at the seams
and joints
like a leavening of bread loaf
rising together
some carved from granite
some carved
from volcanic rock
basalt black
and brought from
close-at-hand quarries
some from far valleys
what wonders
he reveals of the ancient world
as he places
a reverent palm
on the big-bellied curve
of a single seam
tracing the line of the bond
with the tip of his nail
like the natural path of a bead of rain

what a marvel
he says
see how they interlock
where they fit
this amazing masonry
crafted by the lost art of ancestors
knowing the solstice of the seasons
training its light
through the notch of a mountain
for the god of the sun
and the god of the moon
caressing these lintels like a lover’s warm hand

he is imploring us
to pay a studied attention
to the distant past
he wants us to see where
the interstices held
even as the earth trembled
and scree boiled down from the broken slopes
of the high mountains
these walls stayed
stronger even than the monuments of memory
preserved by breath in story
while we stand and move stand and move
performing the work of walking shadows
timing the ephemeral darkness of a single day


the mind is soaked
in the fallen soldier’s sorrowful story
like dipping a book
into grey-paged water
there in the memory of weeping ink
only the sound of one sad horse
plodding unheard
under the saddle shadow
of a weightless rider
a lugubrious
clip clop
gone silent but for the
quietness of imaginary war—endless elsewhere
the absent master sits where he drifts in the light
like smoke above burning
his empty boots facing away from the mane
as though they remained
at the foot of his bed
where he dreams on in timeless repose
over unmeasured reams of moonlit darkness
his mount turned to stone
in a vanishing orchard of shade
where he grazes on grass jeweled with dew
see where he sips
at the blackening pool
of the soul of the man he has lost

in an autumn of strangers
when evening falls early and soon
and then in the hoar frost of morning
with its white-glazed grasses of dawn
we are late to remember
the losses of gloaming
and lest we forget
we lived and were loved in a short-lived blue
but for the woe of one horse called forever
with his sad fardel of funereal grief
know that he carries us all to the sun
like a lake in a shivering landscape of rain

John B. Lee was appointed Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford in
perpetuity in 2004 and Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life in 2015.
His work has appeared internationally in over five hundred publications and
he has over seventy five books in print.  A recipient of over eighty
prestigious writing awards, he lives in a lake house overlooking Long Point
Bay in Port Dover where he works as a full time author.  His latest books
The Full Measure, (Black Moss press, 2015) and Adoration of the
, (Beret Day Books, 2015).
Wax Poetry and Art
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