Poems by Tim Van Schmidt
Deep in the Heart of the West
Slinking out of the soul, a shaft of light illuminating walls of paternal philandering, of millions of years of dumb-headed blundering but still surviving the wheel that constantly buries the race.
It bends, it disintegrates, it dances and sings. It swears about the flaming world deep in the night.
It shines on faces trying to bare their souls.
It moves with the clatter of an old car used for a motel kitchen.
It wrestles with the clouds and shoots past Mars in a constant flexing of muscle.
This light is bizarre, searching for its own edge- Death, the father of a new time, sinks throbbing into your being.
Not dirty, pure, without concern for weight, or the reveries of the instantaneous bellow of human heartfulness. Sex. Drugs. Music. Leaving behind the barbarian’s crown, this light stretches to the end of an absolute dance, the repetition of an enhanced dream of lips, love, luck and life.
The light splits apart moments.
The light knows nothing but breathes everything as it slowly slinks from the holy dullness of Illinois, to the poisonous thorn dream of Arizona. The light loves Los Angeles and grows with the rain in Seattle. And now it burns within a hot Colorado day with the birdies chirping and the cars farting.
The light resides deep in the heart of the West and says ride ‘em cowboys and amigos. Your time has come to tell it all to the wind. Let’s walk the dog and grin like God. Slap him on the back and blind him with the light of your love.
The last thing she did was
To hand her granddaughter to safety.
Mobile homes were torn aside,
Gas pipes exploded, the train derailed.
The fireman’s eyes were glazed and cold
At the havoc he had to face:
The emergency was still shooting
From the skies. Dark night,
Mighty muck, the water poured
Over Bibles, food, scarves and forks,
Photos of trikes, babies and ballgames,
The parents smiling in a moment
of frozen time. The flood
made no mistake, took no prisoners,
poured itself faster than poor
hands could bail, plaster sand bags,
minds could think in the constant wet blast.
Soaked to the soul, one man grabbed
His family tight as they stretched
Across the current; a cop held
Traffic; wet yellow slicker.
Boys jumped through the waist-deep river,
Pushed cars, rode inner tubes, yelped
In the roaring horror. An old one
Saved her cat, but lost her life,
Driftwood knocking frail body
Into oblivion. Peace was gone.
Station wagons filled with dirty tears, money
Floated, the sewage flowed among
The hopes of lives shaken by
Thoughtless nature- without words,
The flood changed it all.
Now, spots grow on walls, the landfill
Brims with wet debris, prayers
Are said over the quiet victims
Lost in the love of before the flood.
The last thing she did was
To hand her granddaughter to safety.
The last thing the flood did was
To say it could always come back.
Magic is what doesn’t float
On top of the stream
Running down the middle
Of time where
The heartbeat is steady,
Eyes are clear, mind calm and
Nothing is out of place.
But let the dust rustle,
Think in a voice you do not recognize,
Let one eye slip
And the heart skip.
Then time shudders,
Water flies in opposite directions
And power becomes
A darkened moon,
An abandoned car,
The spark of the left and
Clatter of the right.
Light becomes impure and strained,
Tastes are sharp, undefined.
Magic is not the conformity
That laces the center tight.
It is the foot
That steps somewhere new,
An eye that sees something blue.
Take up the threads
That spread like vines
Into the chaotic jungle of question.
Magic is not the common word.
Magic is like nothing you have heard.
It is the whisper of another language
Where meaning does not repeat.
Those who speak
Do not return,
Do not settle
For the comfort
Of soft, dull sleep.
Magic is being awake
And you do not take
A map on this journey
Into unknown space.
Leaving the Life
By noon, it will all be over:
Armageddon, lift off, a wakening from
A nap on the killing fields.
One breath leaves the body while
Another pushes back in,
The flavor of what isn’t,
What should be, vapor barely
Throbbing in the psyche’s scramble.
Stay still like a corpse so that
The unmade man will rise; think
Slow and even, refuse layers that
Surround your voice like a tree’s skin,
Confuse reception, crackle like embers
That do not cool. Work
Is just beginning. Say so long.
Go home and grow.
One Fine Spring Day
One fine spring day, the long finger of the sun glided through the window and tapped my shoulder with its yellow elegance. The new season reminded that this is the time to live, to make human being sounds in the boundless cosmology.
Claiming precious moments of forgetting, we banged the drum, strummed strings, things vibrating in the afternoon. Sounds sweet, serious, sudden, safe; rhythms of life lifting weight from the body.
Snow was heaped up in doorways, against the walls, everything stopped by insistent silence, heavy brightness shooting out like ten billion spotlights, pure white. Even at midnight everything glowed.
Celebrations of spring also vented the brain where tank treads crunched the desert and bombs took wing. Angry little voices spewing out of the box were all put to rest by the long finger of the sun gliding through the window with yellow elegance.
There’s eye-popping going on
When mermaids, midgets, pachyderms parade
Through the gaping American mind.
The Escape Artist waits
Until tickets are sold.
Then chains fall limp,
Handcuffs clatter into cash.
Clowns mug through wanton crowds
So line up on benches,
Let the canvas unfurl!
PTB stands aside, laughing.
Father of the fabulous humbug,
PT Barnum- Phineas Taylor- is the
Moneymaking mogul when mummy’s the word.
Delusions, impositions, quackeries, deceits:
Behold the Swedish nightingale.
Make way for the walnut carriage and
Tom Thumb’s miniature breath.
This Temple of Fortune amazes, delights,
Picks pockets with exotic purchase.
The friendly hokum is deliberate art
Connected at Siamese waist.
Leave troubles outside the flap.
Elect PTB for mayor of marvel:
He is the golden eagle flying,
Lying under cool marble,
Inviting all with coin
To join the great show
Where ball and chain
The measure of the empire no
Longer is the spoil of swords, but
Cheesecake, chocolate, sweat shirts and
Cartoons standing next to statues who
Speak in poems, revere legends,
Become advertising. Stand
Aside and let actors through.
Plastic breastplate followed by
Spangled thigh. Myth
Mixes with money, Brutus
Speaks with Apollo. The lines
Blur between history and pop,
Experience and price.
The endangered specie is
A man sitting in a chair, credit
Strung around his neck like
A nametag. Tired, he joined the throng
Just to get away.
Caesar would rise on the escalator.
He would scoff at lace underwear.
Who once ruled Rome would wretch
At the kitsch and question espresso.
The rabble occupies every inch and
Nobility hides. He would
Hike up his robe, spit
On tiled floors, then sit
Next to the man waiting for his wife.
The crowd’s murmuring chaos
Blanks out the Senate,
Baths attended by slaves. Caesar
Stands to walk.
The blue sky, clouds painted
On the ceiling turn into
A strange, oozing balm.
The emperor sells a gold ring for
Poker chips, accepts free drinks.
Tired, Caesar checks into a room,
Watches TV- forgets his name.
In this half
Of the continent
Like a man
Reading a map.
I push my fingers
Over rivers and mountains
And I circle
The round eyes of cities.
Which way shall I go?
I ask myself
And stiff surviving trees
Cars drive by
Pushing along the cracked roads.
With hidden smiles
Behind my back.
I could limp
To the edge of town,
Take off my clothes
And step into the wilderness.
But I go into the café,
Sit among beans and greasy meat
For the next bus
Out of town.
This Event Horizon
Muscle, bone and sex
Is all I have left
After passing through
The blast furnace of rebirth.
I want the sun to sit on my shoulder,
The moon to worm and spin
Through my heart, cold and clean.
One leg will be a tree,
One leg a mountain,
Both rooted deep so I remain tall.
A bird is on one hand,
The moth of delicate design
On the other.
I will be a locomotive.
I will churn like the paddle in the sea.
And all around my ribs, bones
Made of red breathing coral,
The myriad tiny fish will swim,
Bright and dull,
Sharp and lulled,
Thoughts with electrical hair.
I will stand against the flood.
I will radiate power.
And I will hang like the jellyfish
Rippling in the breeze.
This wish is no future claim
It occurs before your eyes.
The air itself is on fire.
My will is resolute.
It happens. It happens now.