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Tragedies/Dark Poems

Ever notice how comedies and tragedies end the same?


Murmuring Prayer

O how endless thy mercy!
Thou hast blessed me with health
Thou hast blessed me with wealth
Thou hast bestowed blessings without number

But why bless me with wealth
Why bless me with health
Why preserve my life
If only to forsake me?1

Thou hast denied me the one blessing I most desire
The essence of happiness
And my existence is agony
For thou hast denied me Love!

Truly, I am judged wicked in thy sight
For no greater hell could there be
Than this loneliness prepared for me!

Lord, send my roots rain2
Let not my cry be vain, unheeded
Lord, where much is required
        Much is needed.3

Spring 2002, November 29th 2002

1 Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
2 Gerard Manley Hopkins' sonnet "Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord"
3 Doctrine & Covenants 82:3

Background: I wrote this poem in the spring of 2002, but a friend deleted the original version from the computer it was stored on. This rewriting is not as good as the original in some places and better than the original in other places, and it is quite different from the original.


Alone in My Misery

Why isn't it raining outside?
This should be a darkest night!
Where is my wind, my tempest!
For the storm surely rages within.

This sunny day mocks my pain
With its bright blue sky
And gentle breeze upon the flowers.
I want darkness and cold wind!
Come lightning! Come thunder!

Away, cloudless sky of azure!
Away, rolling hills of green!
Why am I trapped in this hell of a heaven
When I long for my hell, not for thee!

And you!--blue eyed lass
Hair and gown caught by breeze
Why do you still stand there
As if I had another heart to stab?

I just want my darkness
I just want my peace
I just want my tempest
I just want to be
        Alone in my misery.

2001 or 2002

Background: This poem was written specifically for part of a larger work, which I am still composing, Ten Tales of Tobermorey.


Happiness is Far From Here

Happiness is far from here
But Despair is right next door
Peace is a place far away
But Pain is strewn on the floor

I walk down the road of Loneliness
And stare at my sky of Sorrow
They're all mine now, mine alone
There's enough for Hell to borrow

O the vastness of my loneliness!
The depth thereof you know not
And the exquisiteness thereof you know not*
It is a cold, dark plain that stretches into eternity
There's plenty of room for all of us in my hell
Because there's no one here but me

November 2002

* Alma 36:21; Doctrine & Covenants 76:48


Picture

In the following experiment, I will attempt to imitate a well-known, published poet in order to better understand some of the conventions used by such writers and gain a better comprehension of the craft. The poet I have selected as the subject of this research is Thom Gunn.

Although not all of Thom Gunn's poems are centered on love and lovemaking, a good number of them, such as those in his 1992 collection, The Man with Night Sweats, are focused on the what poet sees as the beauty of homosexual love. These lines from "The Hug" are just one example of Gunn's homoerotic imagery:

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
            Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
            Your instep to my heel,
      My shoulder-blades against your chest.

The poem, along with others such as "To a Friend in Time of Trouble," "Bone," and "An Invitation from San Francisco to my brother" show that the poem "The Bed" and "The Hug" are very much prototypical Gunn poems.

Along with his homoerotic imagery, Gunn shows a sense of loss of love in such poems as "The Dump" and the poem "The Man with Night Sweats." In addition, other aspects of Gunn's poetry include verse that upon first reading may appear to be free verse but actually contain subtle rhyme. Gunn also plays with typography, as shown in the lines above. And his imagery of love and love lost goes beyond the physical to thoughts and dreams as shown in "The Bed"-"but it still goes on/ Inside my head" as well as in "The Dump." I hope to imitate these characteristics of Gunn's poetry along with his plain speech.

Picture

You smile at me always with that same smile,
            Your back is ever turned slightly to me,
This image of you reminds me it's been a while
            Still, your head is turned so I can see.

Your eyes look at me as if they see me
            And often I'm moved to smile back,
But more often now I only feel sorry
            Over the love I lack.

My imitation of Gunn does not contain as concrete imagery as I hoped it would, and the rhyme is not very subtle. I found it difficult to not mess with the syntax and still have the right word for the end rhyme. I still think "sorry" is not the right word. However, I feel that the poem subtly refers to homosexual love and lost love as well as looks into the mind of the speaker and not just his physical environment. Further, in writing the piece, I noticed that in several poems Gunn uses complete sentences, or complete thoughts rather, in each of his lines except the last line of the poem; I attempted to imitate this in the conclusion of my poem. The title, punctuation, and typography are also based closely on his poem, "The Bed," and a comparison of the two poems may prove beneficial.

Circa 2001


Enemies

Damn you, all who judge me
They who hate me for what I am
Damn you that despise me
Who look down, down at me, damn!

Better than me you think you are
Savage whereas you are refined
"Better you than me!" You shout from afar
As though my back behind

How have I harmed you?
What injury to you have I done?
Why revenge seek do you,
When in contrast, I seek none?

Think me savage, think me beast
Judge me by my actions not
Of all creatures, I am least
My soul, you have sold and bought,
My people, you have killed when caught,
My will, you have continually fought,
My good name, you have shot,
My spirit, you have snapped with but a thought,
My blood, will run with emotions hot

Nay, Nay, I yet live
Cast off I, all my hate
I to you, my amends give,
But, oh good lord it is too late
Too late, too late, too late, too late
For I am dead, it'is too late.

May 17, 1992

Background: Ironically, this poem was written during church. I wrote it on a page in my journal. My mind was wondering, but surprisingly, I wasn't in a bad mood despite the poem's dark tone


Lamentations

L ater go, but stay awhile
A nd put off that one last mile
M ourn with me, for lost have I
E verything for which I cry
N o, though I cry in vain
T o you I say, I am sane
A nd though it may not seem quite so
T he world is mad, not me, although
I n days not yet, I used to be
O n the brink of reality
N ow in the end I have come apart
S ick and sad is my heart.
       
January 10, 1994

Background: "Turn," "Unkown," "Lamentations," and "Verb is a Noun" were all written on the same day as English class assignments on poetry. However, they far exceeded the mere bounds of homework.  In my opinion, "Lamentations" is the most successful of the three former works. Not only is it one of the few acrostics I have ever written, but it really captures dramatic concepts of emotion compactly.


Undone?

To all I say, The battle's won

There I sit, and as I stand,
The sky beneath me turns to land,
I was not flying after all
I cannot fall, I cannot fall

In days not yet I used to be
Seeing things I've never seen
And comes to mind what never comes
The questioned thought, Am I undone?

I walk the beach a starry night
And through the clouds I see the sun
The darkness 'round me is so bright
Am I undone? Am I undone?

I meet a man, she knows me
I fight battles I've already won
Then I think, this cannot be
Am I undone? Am I undone?

Other's riches now are mine
I have it all, yet I have none
I know no one, see no sign
Am I undone? Am I undone?

Crazy am I, not mad,
For all the losses I have won
I'm not insane for I'm mad
Am I undone? Am I undone?

From whence do I go to?
To where are you going from?
Not from me, I say to you,
I am undone, I am undone.

To all I say, The battle's won,
The truth be known, I am undone.

February 12, 1994

Background: I was quite pleased with the play on words I was able to produce in the second, fourth, and eighth stanzas (the first stanza being a single line.) The first and last two lines of the poem were added shortly after I completed the rest of the work. The first line of the third stanza I borrowed from an earlier work of mine.


No Wishes Without Dreams

Things to wish for
I thought there'd always be
But now I think that no more
For the truth do I see

That to wish you must have a dream--
A desire beyond a goal
It's too late for me it would seem
For in dreaming, time took its toll

Before, with wishes was I teaming
Years ago that was true
But suddenly then I stopped dreaming
It was the night when I lost you

Since that night when our dream shattered,
Since then I have been without care
For without you nothing has mattered
Since my dream has turned to nightmare

Goals, them I have still
And with happiness, still I can be
But no dreams have I to fulfill
And my one wish is for tears you can't see

Oh what a time it was
When we thought we could fly away
Oh what cruel things time does
When we don't share all we should say

And oh how I miss you
Like the deserts miss the rain--
So long since dreams could come true
So long to have to hide pain

No wishes without dreams
No dreams without you

For dreams now it seems
Are all that's left of us two

Now my world is changing so fast
And soon I will be off afar
Dreams I wish to leave in the past
And no more wishing on our star

Only a picture do I take
A photo kept hidden I do
To preserve your memories sake
For they are all that's left of you

And though things are not as they seem
As I leave for places unknown
Something whispers in my dream
That I will never be alone.

November 23, 1995

Background: This is a very peculiar piece. It has a play on words between dreams and wishes which the reader has to really ponder in order to comprehend. The strange thing about this poem is that I wrote it with no particular person in mind; then exactly a month after I wrote it I was involved in a fatal car accident in which my friend's fiancée died. The poem strangely fits their tragedy to a tee. The accident was at night as stated in the third stanza, and since then my friend has understandably been chronically depressed. The second line in the seventh stanza I took from a song with the lyrics, "And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain," and went on in the following lines to spell out the meaning of that phrase; so long since dreams could come true, so long to have to hide pain. I got the idea for the tenth stanza from another song in which the photograph of a long lost love is all that's left of them.


I wish today was tomorrow

I wish today was tomorrow
So it would no longer be today
I wish my pain and sorrow
Would all just go away

I wish that I could borrow
A child's mind at play
I wish today was tomorrow
So it would no longer be today.

April 15, 1996

Background: This short piece just came to me quickly in my mind as I wrote the words down. You will notice, of course, the intentional pattern of repeating the first two lines at the poem's end.  Ironically, this poem was coincidentally written on April 15th, tax day in the U.S. and coincidentally the birthday of a girl I had never met when I wrote this poem but who later wound up being my wife. The poem is not about taxes nor my wife's birthday.


The Other Side of Peace

There are two sides to peace
You're either within it or you're without it
The outside looking in is hell

And within is joy beyond price
But I can't seem to stay inside
I've got to get back to the other side of peace.

September-October 1998

Background: I don't Remember exactly when I wrote this poem, but I believe it was over the course of a couple weeks during the months of September and October, before October 17th. I had recently returned home from two years in Japan July of that year, and in December of that year I left for Hawaii for three years. It is a very short, free verse piece with reference to peace of conscience. Then later, I rewrote the lines in rhymed verse as part of a longer work I started working on while in Hawaii, Ten Tales of Tobermorey.

With peace there are sides two
Either within or without peace are you

The outside looking in is hell
And within is joy which words can't tell

But I can't seem to stay inside
I cannot from guilt in peace hide

My guilt and pain do not cease
I must get back to the other side of peace.


Broken Dream

Curse the night for the dreams it brings
Curse the eagle for making us want to fly
Curse the diva and the song she sings
Curse happiness for passing me by

I curse the dreams that can't come true
Curse I the sun, moon, stars and sky
But most of all curse I do you
Curse you, dream of dreams, do I

Cursed wild dream which still hurts me
Be ye cursed for the wound which won't heal
Cursed false hope which breeds insanity
Be ye cursed for not being real

How is it that e'en in heav'n's highest halls
Mere mortals' dreams can't come true?
Though greater glory from there us calls
The impossible dream why calls me it too?

Why haunt me do you as hunger haunts the poor?
What prey do ye seek in the hunt of my heart?
I would pray thee my last hope want no more
What a nightmare, a demon of a dream thou art!

Leave me be thou wretch of life's fall
Away!  My heart is as spindrift tossed
Of a truth it is better to have never loved at all
Than as mine fate to have loved and lost.

August 10, 1999

Background: I wrote this poem while studying Shakespeare's play, Othello, thus the language was influenced somewhat by the classic work. Notice the use of alliteration in the fourth stanza.


Change

If I weren't dead I'd kill myself
If I weren't crazy I'd go insane
Put back what you took from the shelf
So such thoughts won't be in vain

I have wasted my time here
And how much I regret,
Letting come true all my fears
While my dreams I forget

Fools!  How could happen let you this?
Bind yourself in daily care
The important things you do miss,
While useless tasks do you bear

I refuse to become like you
And you must choose this day
Will you your best try to do,
What you do or change your way?

By and by truth stays the same
But change passes by me not
Through truth light our spirits came,
To life, or is that false thought?

For how can man be thus changed
If truth he is thus from?
For change is not in truth's range
When lies from men come

Don't leave me
Paint my face sad
Leave me alone
For I have gone mad.

March 16, 1994

Background: This a fair poem for one of my earlier works, but it's not the greatest in the world, and I sometimes wonder whether I should just rewrite the whole thing.  I originally titled the piece "Normalcy," and the second, third and fourth stanzas reflect my disgust at the time with people's tendency to get caught up in mundane cares while neglecting those things truly important in life.   (This theme is also seen in the poem "I Was There.")  Then the fifth and sixth stanzas question how could man's spirit come into existence through truth if people change yet truth changes not.  And the final stanza takes the reader back to the concepts of the opening stanza.


WALLS

January 24-26, 2000

Background: I had just heard of the form "double acrostic" in which the same word is spelled out with the first letter of each line of a poem as with the last letter of each line.  I wanted to create a new kind of double acrostic, one that spelled out two different words, but gave up and finished the piece as a free style poem. I have seen poems like this before, called emblem poems, that use words to make pictures, but I have never seen one where the words were linked together. I am sure somebody must have thought of this before me though. It is somewhat like a crossword puzzle.


Untitled 3

Did the leaves’ color change while I wasn’t looking?
And did the autumn leaves fall when I was gone?
Did the snow melt while I was away jouking?
Did the spring blossoms fade before the dawn?

Where was I when summer’s sun was shining?
Where was I when the spring showers fell?
Where was I for the moon’s silver lining?
Where was I for them, can you tell?

What happened to the years now past?
Where have all these moments gone?
Why didn’t they forever last?
Where, oh where did I go wrong?

October 1998

Background: I wrote this short piece a few months after my return from Japan, but did not find the word to rhyme with 'looking' in the third line until June 2000, when I inserted the lines into the larger piece I was working on at the time, Ten Tales of Tobermorey.


LINES
Composed a few hundred feet below Laie Falls,
on living on the shore of the Pacific during an "Education."
May 9, 2000

Four years have past since I came to be
A mainlander on the isles of the sea
Pure white mountains left I behind
With a better paradise in mind

Into the Ko'olaus we hiked one day
Searching to find the falls of Laie
Worth the trip are the falls heard I
Beautiful to hear and delicious to the eye

Though high into the mount were we
No view did clouds allow us to see
Long had we hiked o’er the rough terrain
When to spite us came the falling rain

No birds greeted us as we reached our goal
Three hours had we hiked to see a mud hole
Watching the trickle drop ten feet to a brown pool
I said in my heart, "This reminds me of school"

For long have I journeyed and grueling the pace
Only to find This isn’t the place
We rush by the beauty to get to the falls
We rush through our studies to cover them all

No chance is given for the view to see
No moment to think on the subject’s beauty
In the end it’s all to make more money
Else we would all take art and drop our GE’s

I think on what Wordsworth said of this life
"Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife"
I wonder what Mr. Wordsworth would say
If he saw how we study his poems today

On our hike back I spied a rainbow
Distant and vanishing was its dull glow
Life has gone out of this place
Nature is spoiled by the rat race

Four years have past not worth their cost
I long to leave this paradise lost.

-F. C. Stamps
May 9, 2000

Background: The long title of this piece was inspired by Wordsworth's poem "Lines Composed a few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798." Although the title may be a spoof on Wordworth's overly lengthy title, the poem is not a parody of his poetry. This piece contrasts Wordsworth's inspiring experience at Tintern Abbey with my sometimes less than inspiring experience at university. Line 18 is a modification of Brigham Young's famous quote upon beholding the Great Salt Lake Valley, "This is the place." Line 26 is a quote from another poem by Wordsworth, "The Tables Turned."

The allusions to a rainbow in lines 29 & 30 are an ironic contrast to the Wordsworth use of it in more than one of his poems. Wordsworth speaks of the beauty of nature, and I speak of the ruin of life by out of touch institutions. This poem does not necessarily reflect all my views of the school at all times, only my frustration at times with many of the double standards and asinine policies of the university as well as the self defeating practice of needlessly rushing through studies to meet artificially and arbitrarily set mandates and deadlines.

The Ko'olau Mountain Range referred to in line 5 is the major mountain range on the island of Oahu. The small town of Laie, home of the university is located at the base of the Ko'olaus on the edge of the Pacific Ocean on the windward side of the island.

Since I wrote the above poem, I hiked back up into those mountains and my heart was changed when I reached the peak of the mountain range. Please see the poem MORE LINES.


Sonnet 91101

Did you see my face in the crowd that day?
I was the one with fire in my eyes
I saw you there in dying women's cries
And in the falling towers' choking grey
I knew your face in the cold-blooded way
The planes folded as I watched black smoke rise
And heard your dark voice in our silenced skies
Didn't you see me there that evil day?
You must have saw me; you've woke me before
Only now I guess you thought you could hide,
Thought I'd not come over mountain or dune
You thought somehow you could win this war
Stretching forth your arm to hold back the tide
But no matter, you'll be seeing me soon.


Poetry copyright © 1998 by F. C. Stamps

© 1999 - 2017 F. C. Stamps