Peter Chapman Poetry


If you come to me all hexed up, you know I'm gonna break the spell. – Peggy Lee

I just pray for you, in your dirty nightgown. – Dave Alvin

I'm not a serious person, I don't like them. – Ray Bradbury

Every trip I took, I never looked to get any feelings back. – John Hiatt

I heard God's fast. I'd have to go up in front of him myself, before I'd bet on him. – Billy The Kid

She was 100, but she was wearing something tight. – Leonard Cohen

Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name. – Jim Morrison

Love's an old remembered song a drunken fiddler plays, stumbling crazily along crooked alleyways... – the old poet, in Night of the Iguana

A creature void of form. – Bob Dylan

I'm a human corkscrew and all my wine is blood. – John Prine, from Jesus, The Missing Years

...begotten not made... – Nicene Creed

You should always study your voice, because as you get older, your looks go, but your voice will become empowered. – Olivier to Terrence Stamp

Languid mandala of the ceiling fan, teases the air like a slow-stroking hand. – Bruce Cockburn

I believe in a loving father, one I've never had to fear. – Waylon Jennings

If you can't get out of it, get into it. – Outward Bound

...and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. – John 6: 1-21

When you have walked all day and drunk cool, clear water along the edge of the paletted woods, near a not-busy old road whose lines have worn almost away, you have a chance to see, if you are reposed and not (as a friend once thanked me for) needy, you have a chance to see how the truth ends up. Spires. Conspires, inspires, expires. The pitched gables of reasonable sanctity. Why attend? I tell people I like being in the buildings.

The stories. John on the banks of the muddy Jordan, eating locusts with honey. Living then. Locusts and honey. Putting the locusts into his mouth and crunching them up, because then you could eat locusts, sitting in robes in the sweet ache of prehistory. Observed, written down. Vapory. Hanging mists of the epistolary. No sound but the buzzy drone of momentousness. This new land's soft hysteria. Moss hanging heavy in the canopy, mottling my raconteur, good to dance the de rigueur.

I'd not gone far when I came into the church, and looking for the bulletins, went into a dim hall off the chapel, where I saw as if it had been set out for me, a girl whose long hair was lit by a lamp, hiding her eyes, reading a book in the early silence of that stone tower Sunday. I asked the cook, cooking for the homeless another time, about a knuckleball, knowing he would know, and he set down his pans and showed me how

you grip the ball lightly, along its seams,
and push it off, toward the plate
with a wing and a prayer.

That wind blowing the gargoyles down, I hear it now, ideal, profound. In line at the poor store, buying odds and ends (ice trays, paint brush). The cashier is about her work, handling customers with respect. Yessir she says. No sir. Like in Dickens.

A pronounced nose, teeth needing work. Eyes rich with truth.

You'll need a rest after this I said. It's the holiday and shoppers swarm like bugs.

No time to rest, I've got three kids at home. Proving the mission angel.

Divinity down and dirty, Lord she's pretty. Love's a radiance, a charity, a blessing & a curse, a moan.....and among the shards of wicked tongues and eyes on the ground, I, years hence, feel biography sucking its face to me: lazy, flashing myself around, so driving out of town, I come to the school of my earliest days, and park, and take out my camera, and squint to see if memory is free, then take some photos of her old house, Esther Coe's house, my first awareness of a girl's jumble, 3rd grade, her father a minister, her house, our school, the schoolyard where there would have been bullies, in this small town along the canal in the 1950s where I'm standing, walking around, feeling litho, me and the print puller, then waiting, waiting for time, the home stained, with vines, windows not quite matched or fitting.

I recall how Randy Newman once declared Paul Simon sophomoric, and Simon's been taken into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences at Harvard, founded 1780 by John Adams, and I'm laughing, watching a bunch of forsythia bloom, at our wicked hubris.

Only my own philosophies have, like shoppers, purchase.

The empirical life, the laments.

God has come this day to play the wind, ready to start the service.

Walking the beach with the soft wave lap, the ending of warmth, I pause three times to scratch Eat Me with my stick, high enough so the waves won't disturb it, and later know I mean this not as a vulgarism but to entreat, as Whitman might, others to take of my sacrament, my 3rd scratched near Free Bosnia.

Neobiblical celestial imprecation #9.

And now I've been asked to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra. The a/c has failed, the hall will be hot, and the other performances, when it'll be less hot, have already been taken. No no no at first I say, but then, thinking it over, why not? I make plans, turning over, to turn on the dais feeling the basso thrust of the symphony's power. (Dream transcript 14)

The worry of charm: The most delightful and significant part of charm is when one turns it loose, and one can see, in the country's eyes, the uh oh here's charm, how do I take it? One might receive, if country is charitable, a blink that registers okay I'll allow you a bit of it. But you are on shifty ground, the warning of a tense proceeding.

Though I have long wondered what it would be like
To be me now
No older at all it seems from here
As far from myself as ever

Hiking the other day via a preserve in the company of two wonderfully keen and pleased naturalists I learned one can survive in the wild by locating a swamp and eating the bullrushes whose roots are quite nourishing and even the furry tops can be mulched into a sort of porridge. Follow your swamp as it goes to a stream/river and you may find an attentive village or a hermit in his hut. You see those cottonwoods, how their leaves stir so, that's because Christ suffers in them. They flutter His atonements. Poplars and the aspens too.

And let us continue to praise truth and justice
Though the eyes of the stars turn black
And the smooking juice of the universe,
Like the ruptured brain of God,
Pours down upon us in a final consecration

The candles are put out, the taper hung not too near the vestments on the pegs, and the tapir noses the stones and roots in the damp woods, drooling and snarfing the piney winey sacrament.