Two Poems

by T. P. Bird (November 2020)


Trinker, Walter Gramatté, 1922



While on the Bank of the River Styx—
Just After a Supper of Beans & Franks with Duchamp,
Cocteau, Cage, Sartre, and Foucault


Last sound, the world going out without a breath:
Too proud to cry, too frail to check the tears, and
Caught between two nights, blindness and death.
—Dylan Thomas, from his unfinished poem, “Elegy”


Earlier in the evening, five

voices filled a small, dim

cottage by the River Styx:

a cockeyed conversation

between modern vanguards—

an artist, a poet, a composer

and two philosophers—let loose

temporarily from the confines of

an endless tongue-tied, eternity.


These men had helped opened up

the 20th Century to absurdity,

nihilism, and eventual despair.

My curiosity of culture, and this

poem, had brought them here for

one night—to hear from whence

it all came.


We shared a meal together

of beans and franks, bottles

of cheap wine and baskets of

stale bread, and exalted in the

imagined glow and heat of a

burning hearth. Unfettered voices

merged—likened to wind and rain

in a furious storm—while sudden

shouts flew up like the sound of

the agitated beating of large wings.

I just listened in silence to their

pointless talk of fragmentation

and chance. 



After the meal and outside

on my own, while the others

continued in their ad hoc

immunity from death’s silence—

I walked along the dark river,

noticing I left no tracks

in the ever-present snow.

I thought upon the night’s

conversation, but remembered

no cohesion in their dialectic—

only a forced synthesis of the

irrational. Reality seemed a

distant star.

                  Walking along the

River Styx, the night was dark,

still, and deeply cold—with a

feeling of emptiness at having

been “deliberately destroyed.”

Yet, my breath—a chilled fog

before me—assured me I was

still alive and writing at my desk.


My faith in antithesis was affirmed:

“If a thing is true, the opposite is

not true; if a thing is right, the

opposite is wrong.”


Otherwise, I have become nothing.




Of Tributaries, Rivers, and Seas




Every day—thoughts, emotions, moods,

affections, desires and decisions flow into

the bed of my psycho-spiritual river like

tributaries; smaller rivers, streams, mountain

run-offs make their way into the steady current

of life and living. Eventually, all merge into

the future—joining together the steady

currents of many rivers into deeper waters.



When the heart bursts forth with certain

human passions—love, joy, jolts of

sudden happiness, a sense of well-being,

and mercy for the needs of others—

tributaries run faster and rivers swell to

good abundance. We then say, the river

looks healthy today.



But, when the mind becomes troubled with

rejection, frustration, disappointment, fear

and anger—self control breaks down; unlovely

passions like sudden storms, cause flood waters

to rush into our rivers, overflowing the banks,

possibly taking down what we have built up.



If one looks glibly, the tributaries flowing into

our psychic rivers are clean—seemingly free

of heart’s corruption and toxic ideology.

Yet, without careful watching, they are now

filling with the litter of pessimism, fear, the

irrational, hatred, bigotry, and violence. The

sad debris of cultural ignorance is finding its

way into moving waters, polluting our rivers,

ruining the sea of our collective consciousness.

Remaining in such waters, we could lose our

old memory of good and evil, right and wrong,

and why it matters that we know the difference.


To many, our rivers may look healthy, but

deeper within their waters, dangerous currents

and obstructions may await the unwary, soul-

weakened swimmer.


The danger of a sorrowful drowning is real.


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T.P. Bird is a retired industrial drafter/designer, and minister. He has a number of poems published in literary journals, including Relief, Common Ground Review and Tiny Seed. Bird has a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Scenes and Speculations, and a forthcoming chapbook, Mystery and Imperfection (Kalsey Books, June, 2021) and a full collection from Turning Point, American Narratives, due in late 2021. He lives with his wife Sally in Lexington, KY.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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