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The Poetry Of.
Stephen Mead..............................

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Joan In Hell's Kitchen

The world burned her up
Because she was baptized by voices.
Those flames another christening,
Kind of a bad trip.
Later the stench of roasted hair
Always made her flesh crawl. She couldn't
Figure how come nor why, for awhile, she
Wanted to squelch tenderness like a cigarette.
Perverse? Maybe. Who here has an understanding?

Ask the fireman who smells an inferno
Whenever he spies, in the street, a child striking
Matches. Ask the mad woman shouting at shadows:
God damn it! Get out!

Fanning the flickers, the kindling which stirs visions
Charred in the face of calamity rampant, rage is a reflex.
After fear, after having sights stolen, it shines through eyes.

Joan's, however, are no longer so harrowing.
She sleeps like rain, greets the morning as water.
Her gestures are fluid, her speech quicksilver fluent.
She hangs out with the fallen, works in a soup kitchen,
Wearing feathers behind ears. The men they remark on
The red tinge to her skin, how it gleams like hot ebony,
Charming, out of alleys, music & cats.

When she touches her lover, the thin air becomes a godhead.
Watch out. He's what her Mama called restless, gypsy-blooded.
You play with fire burning's what you get.
Yet how redeeming seems sin, this salvation shelter,
Though sometimes she worries. Will he leave?
Take her best dress? Become a born again Christian?

He brings her strawberries & cheesecake.
She savors the fruit & throws the crumbs to the wind.
It's a hallmark event. Before a single piece hits earth
Birds hurl out from a sky madonna blue,
From a heaven she's been through already,
Her voices hovering still

Existential Funk

(quiet now, quiet)
(who tryin' to stop that?)
Dearest, look at me.
(how they gonna?)
See, we're on this raft, ok?
& I'm trying to keep you safe
keep you from jumping
but there are these waves
(it's gettin' ugly)
& sometimes you're one of them
& sometimes so am I.
(that's right)
We keep getting bashed
caught in the same seaweed
.. (ooh lordy!)
.. brainwashed you know
.. (fear & loathing)
psychological sandbags
(fear & loathing)
but breathing breathing
.. (they supposed to be)
when they'd have us
broken upon rocks
(it's just nuts)
and I refuse to stay guilty
.. (that's right)
.. victimized on all sides
.. (come on, now)
apologizing for love
(don't do it)
stuck in some role
(say it, honey)
won't you quit this
(say it)
cruel power play
if I open susceptible
(have mercy)
don't use trust against me
(good goin')
or hold back hold back

(I hear you)
old macho marlboro walls
.. (ain't it the truth?)
fire & pride feel the
(uh huh)
calm to our urgency
the strength of gospel
(sing it loud)
the empathy of pain
(have mercy)
how I cherish the blackness
the shapes of your skin
(yes! yes!)
& more than mere body work
(what then?)
the light it contains.

Dearest, if you'd just look
this raft runs on faith.
(say it again somebody)

Search Lights

The sky can't receive them, not whole.
There is too much dusk, luminous, a city's:
the street lamps, buildings, cables
all flattened, a cut paper

This is neon then, misty fringe
the horizon barely visits.
Instead juxtaposition is separate:
the search lights, sky, dimly
sheen-ed steel stuck in a density so awkward
stray angles stick out.

How can such a symmetrical trinity
suddenly feel wrong, the alignment
perfect yet not quite...quite...

Again, look around.
On the ground, withered leaves
circling, circling, their
sound, noticeable, motion,
appropriate, aware, a
response far-
reaching, probing
cones, phantom lit, off-
kilter, a syndrome you can't
locate, these search lights know.

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