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Borealis

Where Ursa Minor spins about its tail
The cold-chill, sabled void of arctic nights
Bestirs to life as unseen hands unveil
The shifting silence of the Northern Lights.

Chameleonesque, the colored curtains curl
In chromic revelry as frozen thunder
Twists the rainbowed polar sky a-twirl
With melting flames that wrap the world in wonder.

As in a dream, the vast-lit atmosphere
Unchains me from my earthbound tethered stance,
Uplifts me through beyond fair heaven’s veneer,
Enjoins me to the stars and bids me dance.

O sweet Aurora, goddess of the dawn,
From darkness into light may I be drawn.

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Lāhainā Noon

Twice yearly as it wends its way
From east to west across the tropic sky,
The sun at zenith stands on high
As earthly shadows fade and slip away.

The day grows silent at the sight
As time stands still before a soundless breeze,
And birds sit voiceless in the trees
As all creation is infused with light.

Yet, as the shadows take their flight
The brightened world seems pale, somehow. and flat,
As if it were the darkness that
Had given depth and substance to the light.

For whether they are God’s or ours,
The shadowed sunlight shapes each rock and tree.
For darkness highlights what we see
And night reveals the glory of the stars.

Both light and shadow play a role
Illuming truth and beauty, peace and strife,
For grief embraces love and life,
And hardships faced and fought anneal the soul.

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Growing Old

An age-worn, back-side, building wall
Of close-set, rough-cast cinderblocks,
Smooth-covered, once-upon-a-time,
With thin-spread coats of paint and lime.

As blistered, peeling flakelets fall
Like silent words, the old wall talks
Of memories, of tales untold,
Of years long past, and growing old.

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James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. 


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17 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    I particularly like ‘Growing Old’. To create such a melancholy atmosphere in so few lines is impressive.

    And some of the astronomical imagery is sublime. I can’t remove the picture in my head of the Little Bear swinging round and round by its tail.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Paul. I hadn’t previously associated the word “melancholy” with the poem, but it does seem to fit. As for the little dipper, I had the same image spinning around in my head as I wrote the line!

      Reply
  2. Sally Cook

    “Growing Old” has a sinuous swing to it which I like very much.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Sally,

      “Sinuous swing” . . . I like that! I think it suits the poem well.

      I wrote the poem at a poetry workshop looking through the window at the back wall of the adjacent building. I was, of course, the only person in the workshop writing poetry in something other than free verse. Such is life.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    These are all good, and the last line of “Lahaina Noon” impressively strong. “Borealis” is my favorite, though, partly for its alliteration, color, and motion. Mostly, however, for word choice and daring use of prepositions in these lines:

    Uplifts me through beyond fair heaven’s veneer,
    Enjoins me to the stars and bids me dance.

    “Through beyond” is a double preposition with each of the two having the same object; economical and effective usage as well as a rare one, and no stumbling in meaning or meter! The reader may be tripped up for a moment, but not long.

    And then “enjoins” is a word with two usually opposing significances–it means either “command” or “forbid,” but in context here it can mean both. That is, the “vast-lit atmosphere” authoritatively orders the speaker to join in with the stars, while also forbidding him to do so, because it is, after all, only air. “Bids me dance” enhances the uplifting one of the two meanings (etymologically contradicting “forbid”), but the final couplet acknowledges that something is yet lacking, by making the plea to be drawn from darkness into light. Splendid work with words in this poem!

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Margaret,

      As always, you give me more credit than I deserve. I had not considered the word “enjoins” in its other meaning “to forbid” or “prohibit.” Yet, as you say, reading it in that sense does add an additional layer of meaning to the poem. Aside from that, the rest was written with the words being chosen for the reasons you describe. I suppose “through” and “beyond” do mean the same thing, but “beyond” carries with it a stronger sense of continuing further as in, “He went through France and beyond to Spain and Morocco.” as opposed to “He went beyond France and through to Spain and Morocco.” Both mean much the same but the first, I think, would be Buzz Lightyear’s first choice!

      As I think about it, doubled prepositions, while not common, are not particularly rare, as in “the bird flew out through the window,” “up over the wall” “down into the water” and, of course, the local bookie’s oxymoronic “over/under!”

      Thank you so much for your interesting, informative, and affirming comments.

      Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    James, to my mind “Lāhainā Noon” is one of the best poems you’ve written. It’s the sort of poem that appears to transcend the constraints of meter and rhyme and transports this reader to the realm she’s happiest in… that of nature. It reminds me of a total eclipse I witnessed in Greenwich Park in the UK, whereby; “The day grows silent at the sight/As time stands still before a soundless breeze,/And birds sit voiceless in the trees”… I had no idea that whenever the sun is straight up in Hawaii, it exhibits the same characteristics of an eclipse in broad daylight. Thank you for the beautiful poem and the enlightenment.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Susan,

      It is indeed unusual to see the shadows disappear when the sun it at its zenith. To see a telephone pole with no shadow and even trees with minimal shadows and to walk along the sidewalk and pretend you are Peter Pan, searching for your shadow. The same effect occurs everywhere in the tropics twice each year. But, as my poem says, the absence of shadow, to my eyes at least, diminishes the beauty of the world.

      I had a young woman once tell me that she was glad she was not an angel, “For angels,” she said, “since they have never known the darkness of pain and suffering, can never fully appreciate the full grace and power of God’s love the way that I can as one who has seen the God’s light shining in the darkest corners of my life.” I’m not sure how this plays out theologically, but it was an image I remembered as I wrote the poem, reflecting on how darkness and shadow so often makes the light more beautiful than it is without. Joy without pain? Happiness without sorrow? Forgiveness without sin? In one sense, how can there be one without the other? What is light without the presence of darkness or shadow to define it?

      This world provides us with that contrast. The life to come, I believe, will offer us new contrasts by which we will see God’s glory even more clearly than we do now.

      Perhaps the angels are better off than my friend thought!

      And, yes, I do believe that they are!

      Susan, I’m glad you liked the poem.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        A heavy idea there, James, and well thought through. As usual, your poems have subliminal undercurrents in play beneath the precise diction and the sparkling images. These poems transport the reader to realms at the fundament of our human existence, where the darkness and the light interact with some consequences, both disquieting and reassuring ones. As Wallace Stevens put it:

        The exceeding brightness of this early sun
        Makes me conceive how dark I have become,
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
        Oh! Rabbi, rabbi, fend my soul for me
        And a true savant of this dark nature be.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you for this educative and thought-provoking reply, James. I like the angel take. I firmly believe the dark shadow of mortality looming over these difficult days makes those brief moments of sunshine and joy all the more valuable… and I intend to revel in every single one of them.

      • Robert Nachtegall

        Thank you James for the reflection. It reminds me of the Exsultet chanted at Easter Vigil… “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

  5. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, another three excellent works. Like, Susan, we witnessed a total eclipse once in the Far North of Scotland. As the sunlight faded, it tricked the infamous midges into coming out in the early afternoon to cut everyone to pieces. “Growing Old” is a gem and a lesson that there is poetry in everything. Thank you for some delightful images.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you Jeff (and CB) for your affirming comment(s). Darkness/Light and “growing old” are particular interests of mine at this stage of my life when I shall be turning 70 years old -May.

      All the best to you (both).

      Reply
  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    These are very beautiful; so much with which I agree has already been said above, so I’ll just quote one of my favorite, marvelously-alliterative lines: “Chaemeleonesque, the colored curtains curl…” Thank you for a lovely read.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      You are very welcome, Cynthia. I was quite pleased with that turn of phrase myself, not so much because of the alliteration (which was intentional) but because the phrase so nicely captured a dynamic, visual image of the Northern Lights at play.

      Reply
  7. David Watt

    James, the rich array of words, and particularly the alliteration of line five, makes ‘Borealis’ a truly memorable poem.
    My favorite lines in “Lahaina Moon” are:
    ‘As if it were the darkness that
    Had given depth and substance to the light.’
    The expression of an observation is precise and meaningful.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      David,

      As you, a master storyteller, well know, poetry is the working of magic with words, rhythm, rhyme and form to conjure, spin, and weave an image, a story, a feeling, an idea, in such a way that it comes alive in the reader’s mind as vividly and indelibly as possible. The phrase you cite worked for you which means I was successful. Thanks for the shout.

      Reply

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