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The Writer's Corner


Poems From Guam

I spent the years 1978 to 1980 on the island of Guam in the Western Pacific. Those were wonderful years that gave me an appreciation for the unique culture of the Guamanian people and exposed me to a lifestyle steeped in tradition--a slow-paced existence where Taotaomonas (spirits of the woods) peacefully coexisted alongside the most modern of shopping malls in native minds; where extravagant fiestas took place every Sunday somewhere on the island, featuring fruitbat (an island favorite), along with every imaginable fish, beef and pork dish. I will always remember the extraordinary friendship, kindness and generosity of the Guamanian people.

The poems that follow were all written on Guam, but they should not be considered finished. Indeed, almost every one, even after all these years, is still a work in progress.

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To Critics
Of d'Indy
The Dreamer
My Symphony
Who Were You?
The Night Sky
The Clock
Of Joy and Sorrow
To Helen
Guam Lament


                   To Critics

 When e'er I put a poem to ink,
 I worry what some sage may think:
      "Does this line miss?"
      "Is that line right?"
      "May I do this?"
      "Is that line trite?"
  After much concern, I find
  That I must ever bear in mind
  I am the master, not the slave;
  These words and phrases must behave;
  I create, arrange, array,
  And, much as potters mold the clay,
  I shape these lines to make them say
      what must be said.

  So there, you sages! Realize
  That as you start to criticize,
  I challenge you my words to hold,
  To wheel them closer to the mold
    to make them tell my story!
  Could you do as well?

    27 June 1979


                   Of d'Indy

What kind of man is this--
Who steals egg-blue
   from robins' beds;
Who takes from roses
   pinks and reds;
Who bargains with the sun
   for gold;
Who boldly wrests from Autumn
   burnt sienna, burnished browns,
To give them back again, reshaped,
As portraits in a world of sounds?

  24 June 1979



God give me clue to what is real,
And give me heart that I may feel;

Let me know the fear of night,
That I may better love the light;

Grant me strength through all my years,
To weather storms that bring me tears,

And still find room when cup is full,
To aid another in his pull;

May I find words I need to say
To help a foundering spirit stay,

And help me, please, to ever bring
A cheerful, joyful song to sing.


   09 May 1979


                   The Dreamer

You call me dreamer;
Of all my names, this one I can't deny,
Because it's what I am.

I dream because I must...

And dreams are free.

No man charges me,
Or tells me what I may or may not dream;
I regulate this need,
And find my pleasure where I wish--

On tall-mast'd ships,
Deserted isles,
On distant planets closer to the stars.

See moonlight on a favorite pond? I do,
And cricket sounds I hear,
And smell the pines,
Though here I sit
   so many miles away.

My money you may take;
Home comforts you may have,
But not my dreams...

For dreams are sacred threads
     that bind together my life's fabric.

When I am too old to dream,
I will no longer feel the need to live.

   07 February 1980


                   My Symphony

Someday my words will sing.
Their tired imagery and jaded form I'll take away,
And I'll dress them in the feel of nascent Spring.

Humblest words I'll use to fashion harmonies
Unlike those gone before--

To stay a rainbow's softness or lay transfixed
The shimmer of first dawn.

My symphony will span the limits
   of my time, and more;

Its substance from my peoples' past will rise,
And through my measured words reach out

To generations yet unborn
   to sign their songs...

   23 January 1980



I oft compare my life to sailing,
With disabled rudder trailing,
On a course preset and strange,
Borne upon a sea of change.

Currents whisk me to and fro
Through countless eddies' ebb and flow;
Each day finds me different still
   from yesterday,

And force of will is powerless
   to make time stay,
Or help me, for a time, delay
   my destiny.

   20 June 1979


                   Who Were You?

So quickly comes the morrow
   and forgetfulness.

Was yesterday as real as we imagine,
   or, perhaps, a product of our slumbering the night before?

Vaporous impressions dissipate on scrutiny,

Recording of a birth or death date ill-suffices...

Does not quench a generation's thirst
   for substance,gives no hint
   of warmth and feeling in a soul
   who lived and breathed as we.

To live, yet leave no record of one's life,
   deprives the future of its past...

Is tantamount to storing precious liquid
   in a sieve.

   25 June 1979



To watch a poem grow is joy.

Such ecstasy to see it turn
   and shape itself

From almost random words
   to thoughts--

To watch it model each new shape,
   new turn of phrase,

And grow--evolve--until it feels alive!

And if, perchance, it captures
   some small truth--the tempered
   word, the lilting phrase--

That flitting butterfly remains,
   forever lifelike,
   locked in ambered line.

   14 January 1980


                   The Night Sky

As a child, I gazed into the night sky,
My mind as full of query as the sky
    of stars,

And stood in awe of all that lighted
    splendor above me.

As a young man, I blindly explained
    it all away with my logic and my fact;

I saw bodies of great girth, their well-regulated paths
    set and governed by unyielding universal law;

I saw the vastness of a predictable universe,

And explained it all with my logic and my fact,
    feeling my Science to possess the key.

Now, I see the same night sky,
    but through older eyes...

Eyes that see the order and the logic still,
    but through the soul--

Eyes that now see stars as small tears
    in that aged black curtain

Through which shines light from eternity's
    stage beyond.

   20 June 1980


                   The Clock

The clock's relentless second hand
  Completes its circle...

Relegates another minute of my life
  To History.

So sad that in that minute
  Nothing new was gained;

But sadder still,

I come no seconds closer
  To an understanding of my soul.

To change the minutes of my life to hours,
  Then to days and months,

Gives years of wasted effort--

Fruitless years of trial
  When it mattered not,

And aimless wanderings through dreams
  That were not mine.

  23 June 1979


                   Of Joy and Sorrow

To share a moment
  of unusual joy or sadness
in another's life...

To reach across the void
  between two souls
and touch...

Is to plumb the depths
  of human consciousness,

To feel the common pulse of man,

And from the old high mountain
  hear the voice of God.

  03 December 1979


                   To Helen

When there was no wall to separate us
   as there is now,

And no veil of the hereafter to confuse me,

I looked upon your face

And accepted your joy into my life.

You had so much to give,

And I to take.

Youth's arrogance you tempered

With the wisdom of your age.

You taught me patience in quiet sessions,

And helped me cope with the noisy arenas
   of my life's days.

And so my monument to you is not
   of polished stone;

It is an ode to your memory--

Words that cannot hope to give in death

Equal pay for what you gave in life;

But no greater tribute can I give
   than promise this:

As long as I may breathe,

So will you live.

   26 January 1980



Beauty most meaningful comes
   from the heavy-laden heart,

That, in its desperation and its pain,

Turns inward, seeks solace in
   the expression of itself,

Not through its pain,

But in spite of it--

When that heavy heart explores
   the vast expanse within,

And draws from inner discord
   purest harmony.

   24 March 1980



Each dawn begets another day,

And bids us take our seat
   in that day's chariot,

To cross another ray-streaked sky
   and track the wind;

But should we find no solace there--

What then?

Does aught else really matter
   in the end,

But that dawn's warmth and light
   shed on a darkened sky?

   12 April 1980


                   Guam Lament

With each sunrise:

I see Spaniards in their battle dress
    trade musketballs for slingstones,

Killing innocence with guns and clothes
    and Mass,

And feel three hundred years of pain;

I see a Japanese lieutenant watch Old Glory
    touch the ground and order up the banner
    of the rising sun;

I see fear and hatred written on the face
    of Guam, and feel her thwarted anger --

See Guam's hopes reborn, despite her pain...

Her spirit alternately wax and want
    throughout those strife-filled years,

Her spirit soar with expectation at war's end;

I see post-war love of comfort poison Guam,
    and feel such saddness for her soul --

Ask myself what can be done to change
    this trend.

There is no turning back, I know;

But clearest heads must guide our Guam
    to paths of reason --

Help her fight addiction to life's dross,

And help her find her future in the golden spirit
    of her ancient past.

  12 July 1980



Latte Stone Park, Agana, Guam



All poems Copyright © 2011 by Mason Johnson

Last reviewed: 28Dec11