The Sylvan Dialogues

Night Walk in the Rain

The Sylvan Dialogues

Copyright © 2022 by Michael Stone

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing.

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Mike Stone

email: mike.stone.email@gmail.com

Contents

Contents…………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Foreword……………………………………………………………………………….. 4

Poems……………………………………………………………………………………. 5

Unpoetic Times……………………………………………………………………… 6

Chirality……………………………………………………………………………….. 7

Hiraeth………………………………………………………………………………… 8

Zeitgeist……………………………………………………………………………….. 9

Integument…………………………………………………………………………. 10

Sough………………………………………………………………………………… 12

Petrichor…………………………………………………………………………….. 13

Redamancy…………………………………………………………………………. 14

A Walk in the Desert……………………………………………………………… 15

Underneath It All………………………………………………………………….. 16

Aliferous…………………………………………………………………………….. 18

Thalassophile………………………………………………………………………. 20

Questions That Should Be Asked……………………………………………… 21

Do Not Give Your Trust………………………………………………………….. 22

A Letter to Our Enemies…………………………………………………………. 23

The Whores of Delphi……………………………………………………………. 26

People with Souls Do Amazing Things……………………………………….. 27

One Righteous Man………………………………………………………………. 29

The Girl in the Photo……………………………………………………………… 31

The Father, the Son, and the Ghost………………………………………….. 32

The Snake in the Garden………………………………………………………… 34

Now I Lay You Down to Sleep………………………………………………….. 35

Foreword

Poems

Unpoetic Times

We live in manifestly unpoetic times

When inspiration is as rare as four-leaf clover

And hatred is the only measure of thought.

Everything is the same the world over

For fear of being different than the masses.

We can’t imagine what we could change

If only we would will it.

Some tried to rise above the dust

But from dust we came

And to dust we’ll go

For dust is all we are.

                             August 13, 2022

Chirality

If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.

What if you’ve already cut off your left?

Are we talking about insults or cancer?

Are we talking about arms or politics?

If we’re talking about wings, how will I fly?

If it’s insults and my arm, I’d rather keep it

If you don’t mind too terribly.

It’s just that we’re usually talking about

People who don’t agree with us

Or don’t believe what we believe,

The faith of our fathers and elders.

I don’t want to cut them off

Or cast them away.

                             August 13, 2022

Hiraeth

Somewhere deep inside me

Is a longing for a place I never was

In a time I’ve never been

In a home I never had.

There is a feeling that belongs

To a person I never occupied.

There is a dream that is

More real than any reality.

It is a bird that flies through the

Night and can never land,

Whose home is my breast.

                        August 16, 2022

Zeitgeist

There is far more absence

Than presence in our times.

Look around you – for every presence

You see, there are countless many

Unseen absences, uncounted ghosts

And spirits who seem to define

Our times. Time itself is a geist,

Partially guessed at, mostly mist,

Blinding us while we struggle

To find our path out of this

Dark labyrinthian world.

                        August 18, 2022

Integument

(a response to Sir Thomas Overbury’s poem, “A Wife”)

Dear Sir, please forgive this disturbance

Of your slumber these past six hundred years

But I have a grievance with your poem,

“A Wife”, in which you write,

All the carnal beauty of my wife,

Is but skin-deep.” Everyone today

Understands you meant that

Skin is but a trivial thing that

Covers things of greater beauty,

But I believe were you to cut and

Peel back the skin, you’d find

A bloody mess of bones and organs.

True, our actions and our thoughts

May possess great beauty,

But the integument of our skin

Is inviolate or should be,

For it guards the integrity of life

And, if breached, our soul’s sanctity

Might be thrown asunder. No,

Beauty is life and life is beauty.

Violation of another’s integrity

Is a foul-smelling desecration

Of what is truly holy.

                        August 19, 2022

Sough

A small child moaning for his mother,

A young woman sighing on a cliff

Overlooking the storm-whipped sea,

An old woman keening?

No, it is only the sough of wind-swept

Leaves on a moonless night.

Go back to sleep, my love,

And do not dream of me.

                        August 20, 2022

Petrichor

The smell of soil’s stony thirst

In the first few drops of dusty rain

After endless days of drought,

Bitter-sweet as the blood of gods

Whose stomachs bloat with the sweat

And sacrifice of broken backs.

                        August 21, 2022

Redamancy

The night covers everything with its icy fingers

It seems like hours you’ve been trudging

Through endless tracts of crunching snow

With only the pale moon above the trees

To whisper the way out of the forest.

In the end, the blizzard picks up again

As if it had forgotten but then remembered

And gathers force as the forest opens up

To a blinding white recession of hills

But among the swirling crystal flakes

Appears a flicker of yellow in the distance.

You lower your eyes to the white mounds

Sucking your legs as you push toward the light.

The cabin’s dark outlines form between the flying flakes

And she opens the door, her slim body

A dark shadow against the hearth’s warmth.

                        September 1, 2022

A Walk in the Desert

You look up from your book

Out the window at the palm tree fronds

Waving in the breezes. You put

A postcard between two pages

Close the book and stand up.

You put the book in your pouch

And look around the apartment

To make sure you don’t forget anything.

You tell your wife you’re going for a walk

But there’s no answer. You pick up a pen

And write a note where you’re going

So she won’t worry and put it

Beside the other notes,

Open the door and walk out.

                        September 4, 2022

Underneath It All

Underneath our clothes,

Our suits and dresses,

Our robes and burkas and kimonos,

Under our hair and skin,

Whatever their color,

Under our muscles and organs,

Hearts, brains, ovaries, and testicles,

Under our lymph, blood, and water,

Under our cells, stem or specialized,

Under our molecules, organic or not,

Under our atoms, protons, and neutrons,

Under our quarks, leptons, and bosons,

Underneath it all, we are all fundamentally

The same, neither different nor similar,

The same. We all have a soul.

Well, some bodies seem not to have souls.

If you need proof that we have souls,

Then maybe you don’t have one.

Only souls can see other souls.

Souls are all the same.

They all want to exist,

Here, now, and forever.

They all need to love and be loved.

And those they love,

They want to exist,

Here, now, and forever.

Souls don’t want to die

And they don’t want to kill.

That’s why armies don’t want

Our souls to see the enemies’ souls.

They don’t care about status or wealth,

They don’t care about work or sports,

They don’t care about power or religion,

They just want to exist,

To love, and be loved.

                        September 7, 2022

Aliferous

Sparrowhawk didn’t wonder

What it was like to have wings.

When he wanted to fly high in the sky

His arms became wings and he rose

And he soared with the other hawks.

When he wanted to hold something

His wings became arms to carry

His loved ones or defend them

Against the wolves and foxes,

And to draw pictures or write poems.

The pictures and poems didn’t come

Like the sun or the moon, but like

Petrichor rising from the parched land

During a light but long-awaited rainfall.

They came to him while flying

And he’d hurry back to his nest

To give them to his beloveds but

All they wanted was succulent fish.

                        September 8, 2022

Thalassophile

As you walk out from the dry sand

Into the cold waters of the sea

Fully clothed, the layers of your dress

And petticoats billow up to the surface

Like a big translucent jellyfish and

You feel the sea’s depths begin its worship

Of every inch of your skin and hair,

The public and private parts.

The tingling thrill of it slows you down

And you lower yourself ever so slowly

Into the deep wide lover that is the sea

Until it is done with you.

                        September 8, 2022

Questions That Should Be Asked

Why are there so few degrees of good

But so many of evil?

Why is it so easy to believe

But so hard to understand?

O God, if You created the universe,

Then why is it so heartless?

If we were created in Your image,

Then why do we hate so much

And when we destroy or kill,

Do we truly do Your bidding?

If You exist, then perhaps

You’re no better than us

And unworthy of our prayers.

                        September 10, 2022

Do Not Give Your Trust

Do not give your trust too freely

To a man who would deceive others

Because there will come a time

When he will also deceive you.

Believe those who say they will

Destroy your land and kill you;

If they lie, then you will still live.

Do not ask others what is right or wrong;

If you don’t know what is right,

Then you won’t know whether they were right.

Learn for yourself what is right or wrong;

Otherwise, you are like a tightrope walker,

Blindfolded and without a net beneath you.

Create beauty, but if you can’t create it,

Don’t destroy it.

                        September 10, 2022

A Letter to Our Enemies

There are quite a few things about you that are similar to me.

You love your children. So do I.

I’d give my life for mine as you’d give your life for yours.

You honor your parents and grandparents,

even if they’re no longer living. So do I.

You’d do anything for your family,

make sure they have everything they need,

and work long and hard for them. So would I.

You want the best life possible for them. So do I.

You have friends who would give you the shirts off their backs

and you’d do the same for them.

Some of those friends are like family to you.

So do I. So are friends for me.

The truth is, you don’t know everything. Neither do I.

Nobody does. There are lots of things you know

but there are lots of things you don’t know.

It’s the same with me.

The things you don’t know, you have to guess at,

you have to trust someone or something,

you have to believe that it’s true. It’s the same with me.

But let’s face it. We have our differences too.

Your leaders tell you bad things about us,

that we are your enemies.

Our leaders say the same things about you.

The truth is, some of us really are bad.

I suspect that some of you are really bad too.

Our leaders say we can’t trust you.

Do your leaders say the same about us? It’s not just talk.

Some of you have killed or injured some of us

and some of us have killed or injured some of you.

I don’t know who started it. Do you know?

We tell different stories. We have different histories.

They all go back so far that nobody really knows for sure

what is fact and what is fiction.

They also go forward into rosy futures that can’t all be true

because some of them are mutually exclusive.

It’s a zero-sum game.

Our differences are real, but so are our similarities.

Why is it that our differences blind us to our similarities?

I’m not saying we should ignore our differences.

I am saying we should be motivated by our similarities

to keep on looking for a way through

the valley of the shadow of death,

relying on understanding and empathy

for each other, rather than fear and hatred.

Don’t wait for our leaders to lead us to peace. They won’t.

They can’t. It is far easier for them to lead us to war.

Peace won’t come unless there’s trust and trust

will only come one by one, two by two, or three by three.

                        September 11, 2022

The Whores of Delphi

From nothing you came

To nothing you’ll go

Through that keyhole that

Unlocks the gates of forever.

You will become many things

Both less and more than you are now

And your body’s entropy will join

The entropy of the universe

At forever’s end.

                        September 17, 2022

People with Souls Do Amazing Things

People with souls do amazing things.

Of course, they can do whatever everybody else does,

But in addition, they can fly through space

On a beam or a microwave, or tunnel

Through a phone wire or an optical wire,

Back and forth, forth and back.

They can send their love

By pressing a heart button,

Not like the soulless

Who press without feeling,

And they have a special language

Of words that are unsaid

That the soulless can’t understand.

Gentle are their ways, protected

Only by their invisibility

But sometimes, in quietude

We may feel their motions

In the depths of our beings.

            September 18, 2022

One Righteous Man

If we can’t fathom our own non-existence

Then how can we comprehend our existence?

Can it really be that our only purpose is

To take as much as we can from the world

And destroy what we can’t use up?

I ask because this is what we do.

We do it because everyone else does.

This is what we say to ourselves.

Perhaps our existence has no purpose.

One righteous man in Sodom and Gomorrah

Can never carry the rest of us

Up to heaven.

Perhaps it’s our non-existence

That has a purpose.

                        September 19, 2022

The Girl in the Photo

You are running away from the temple

You thought you’d be safe in.

Your clothes are on fire from the splatter of napalm.

You tear them off to escape the flames,

But the skin of your back is on fire too.

You try to escape from yourself.

You’re only nine years old,

Too young to wish for cool death.

You barely understand what war is

Or how to calculate collateral damage.

Jesus loves me, this I know,

For the bible tells me so.

You’re only nine.

                        September 22, 2022

The Father, the Son, and the Ghost

The father is lying in bed

Surrounded by the wife

The daughter who came this morning

The nephews and their wives and

A window offers a view of the cemetery

From the fourth floor. Two nurses

Come in to turn the father over.

The son enters and rushes to the father

Bending down and hugging him awkwardly.

The father grins, embarrassed at being

The cause of his son’s sudden appearance

From across an ocean and a sea.

The father waits for someone

To tell the son his story, pleased

To be the center of attention.

The conversations shift to other subjects.

Outside the room, the ghost waits

On a couch in the hallway, reading

The want-ads and sports page and

The nurses sit around the nursing station.

                        September 23, 2022

The Snake in the Garden

In the beginning, there was chaos.

Sometime later, nobody knows when

Or where, space and time were created.

Nothing much else happened for a while,

But then there was a snake slithering through

The lush grasses. Nobody knows whether the snake

Was big or small, long or short, because nobody was around

With measuring tape handy, but the snake came to a mound

That had a burning bush on top of it. Inside the bush

Were the loveliest tulips the snake had ever seen.

The snake slithered up the mound and peered

At the tulips from up close. Then it kissed

The tulips on their lips. Soon after that

Honey began to flow from their lips.

The snake licked the honey from

The lips and slithered into the

Warm and wet darkness,

And that is how the

First man came to be.

            September 25, 2022

Now I Lay You Down to Sleep

I lay you down to sleep

And I remember how you’d come into my room

Late at night from your work and those long hours

After I’d turned off the light almost asleep

But not quite, and you’d sit on the edge of my bed

And ask, “are you too sleepy for a story?”

I’d say “no” because I loved his stories

And I was never too sleepy for another one of his.

Now I lay you down to sleep

And I remember that day it rained so hard.

We took turns shoveling dirt onto your coffin

But I don’t remember when you stopped

Telling me your stories. Maybe it was when

I finally left home because I couldn’t take anymore.

There always comes a time. Nobody really knows

When it will be or what will cause it.

I pray the lord your soul to keep.

I always loved you, just as fiercely

As I thought you loved us, even

When we were too proud to say so.

It’s your birthday today, though the day

Has already slid over the eastern horizon.

In the end, we all turn to candles,

Birthday candles, then memorial candles.

The flame flickers, a small soul in the night

And then goes out, and then we turn to ash

Weightless in a world of heavy matters.

The ash floats upward into the night sky,

And we turn to dust.

After the dust settles,

Only the words matter.

                                    September 28, 2022