These two poems by Stephen Mead, engaging with mortality and the potential for loss which makes us all vulnerable, are also word paintings. Organically and instinctively shaped, as if via automatic writing where Stephen is a vessel, each line comes to fill the page as canvas to often leave a sort of narrative emotional impression after being read…
by: Stephen Mead
Wave Upon Wave This rough deck's wood is perfect to lean a head down against, first the fist, then chin on top. The profile is to be imagined as any salt worthy sea captain's, a little spray making his hair a glistening wet nimbus, sentinel-carved, keeping watch. This picture, however, presents only his back, at least twelve feet between vision meeting substance: the slope of his bent over shoulders there, jean-clad yet with some sort of royal naval folds the background waters' motion makes prominent as they sweep behind his lifted leg, the bent knee, the sailor's sneakered foot on its own lower beam while the other leg holds such precision like a gymnast's. What pinhole camera's viewfinder could hold him so nobly yet with a sense of nostalgia proper to his stance; that this may be his very last ferry ride to the Pines, that he's paid his fare & now wants only to rest just where he is? Bring an easel, a canvas & classical curtains pulled back. See a wash basin stand, the milk pitcher bluing, the rung and re-wrung cloth. How that coolness chased his fever, a compass course over muscles & loins, the sheets to be rolled up in during night sweats & chills & those same sheets unfolding for his limbs as marble scrolls pooling a pieta private yet emblematic as are all such dark voyages. Now he's returned, Lazarus bar back soon to be tender as dervish juggling bottles, spinning discs for the dance floor's raft, sturdy & thumping, a piano of Rachmaninoff's , sailing birthday cake lit & his horizons are frontiers unending, friends, friends, from afar this music blazes endless.
A Brush With In health and in sickness, words spoken with intent but often just a sketchy guess of how much depth will be required by both. The test of love was sudden, the wrench thrown at any us composing a couple given that universal twist: nothing seemed wrong, only a routine check-up and next words such as exploratory, hospitalization, a surgical stent with an explanation of risks. Risks? What's this? Selves prepare yourselves for just what exactly? That was exactly mortality's meditations becoming immediately intimate as though during a meadow walk a hawk's shadow loomed and swooped out of nowhere - hear the whoosh- the susurrus of nearby feathers spread, their tips gracing cheeks. Breath's taken and at vision's edge the blurring rush of talons so close by the shoulder that shock finds its time slow to realize while the seconds catch up. So senses get caught, taken hostage, and do-by-rote is all which kicks in: schedule, get to reception, fill this out, listen, get called in, undress but for socks, the I.V. is started, wait and wait while it drips, drips, drips. Finally, wheeled out and on, will this be the final touch for wedding bands on hands unclasping too quickly during the pulling away, that hallway a tunnel and doors shutting door upon door? Oh orphan lamb, so surrounded and thunder- aware, it's all up to bellwether now, ears perked for the farther pitch returning as a ship through waves of grass. Meanwhile, clover's consuming, but go for that cover, burrow, shelter under fern embroidery woven over with prisms of luminescence a filtering of hope, jellyfish-transparent, eternally regenerating. Take comfort in what is cyclical for you never know, never know... Young or old, what is the difference in coping if years of witnessing do not toughen against global, different players in same human rights fights, same exchanging of species in endangerment this time, this time environments warning of ice ages or those cold poles boiling, the same plights, blights and merciless greed doing alright already, give us enough trees please, the arts, the enriching enough maybe sometimes but no substitute for love, a body, a spirit beside, abiding by night and by day, day and by night... What's that you say? The patient's OK, made it as a trouper during the usual occasional awry and amok out-of-the-blue glimpses, traveler, of the precipice's edge, and how to survive, or not, the death of one's beloved when the very sky should just split wide open and this whole old world cry, cry, cry.
Stephen Mead is an Outsider multimedia artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. Recently his work has appeared in CROW NAME, WORDPEACE and DuckuckMongoose. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations, and allies predominantly before Stonewall.