Paul Ilechko – Five Poems
The stairs are old. They creak as I walk them,
up or down. The bannister gleams with the polish
of ages, black lines in the lustrous brown.
In the kitchen, there are two caddies of tea. One,
the newer, is silver, but not really silver. It’s a cheap
metal, made to shine forever, but has no value.
The other one is truly silver, blackened with tarnish,
a dull glow emanating from under the patina
of the years. A subtle and enduring beauty.
In the morning, I make tea. One cup for me and one
for you. I climb the creaking polished stairs to deliver
yours, to bring it you as you lie there, sleepy and warm
in your cocoon of bedding. Sleepy, you smile at me,
content in your warmth. Seeing your contentedness,
I am happy too. Already, the day is good.
I no longer wear a watch, but I am
surrounded by time. It’s like floating
in a sea of absolutism, this time that
is everywhere and never wrong. Still,
I miss the days of clockwork. The days
of winding up, of jewels and gears, of
small metal parts created through the
wonder of superior engineering. It’s
no surprise that the Swiss were the first,
and perhaps the greatest, masters of
the art. Time moves slowly among their
mountain valleys. It can be more easily
captured, more easily measured; and then
cleverly reproduced by the skilled artisan
who looks every morning from his window
and understands the shape of eternity.
The Thirsting Godless
Water flows from the mouths of gods.
No words, no sounds of any kind.
No smoke imbibed, no food or drink.
Just pure clean water, the drool of gods
that flows along the edge of town,
a crystalline stream where beavers swim
and geese stalk rivals, razor beaks at
ready for a swift attack, marking territory
beneath the arching mulberry tree.
Here is god’s world, the liquid life provided
as a gift to all that lives and grows. Unique
and self-contained, this god is ours. A
god of greenery, a household god, small in
stature, in scope. Not universal, no — specific
to this diamond planet, exotic jewel
in the barren wilderness of space. Not
shared — a god of local politic, the body
politic of earthly being, a moist and
jungled enterprise in carbon form.
And so along that watery strait I walk.
Above me is the eagle’s nest, beside me is
the savage bamboo grove where stakes
stand tall, awaiting hearts to plunge into.
Where inexplicable sadness merges
with the joy of yellow lilies at water’s edge.
A joy that breaks and founders on the
ruined bridge that takes me to the other
side, to dereliction and abandon — the
graffiti covered corpse of steel and paint.
A corpse indeed, emblem of a parched
civility where god has failed, where
water flows no more — and there I wait,
on the cusp of sacrifice, alive with thirst.
The sad daffodils wither and fade under the afternoon sun.
For a brief time, it seemed that this was to be a season for
the ages. A winter warmer than most, and already the flowers were
peeking up, green shoots fighting their way through the
dusty, faded crust of earth long before their usual time.
But then it happened. Winter struck back with a sucker punch,
a late, vicious assault that covered all with deepening snow
and ice. And once this cleared, it failed to rekindle that early
warmth until now, when all of spring seems to be squeezed,
compressing weeks of activity into the merest few days.
All types of plants explode in parallel colors, emerge and fade.
It seems at times that you can look and watch it happen,
as if spring were time-lapse photographed, and now we see the
playback flashing by. Look, there are the daffodils, white and
yellow in their pomp, then sadly wilting into ragged brown.
A Captured Smile
Wherever we go,
you take my photograph.
Is that a gift that you
give to me? A set of memories,
ready-made, a life remembered,
Or is it an assertion of ownership,
a public statement that I am
yours, claimed and unclaimable?
You capture me, the shape and
texture, the hard lines of bone,
creating structure beneath the velvet of
my blanched integument, the
angles of shadow and light where
the bony carapace gleams through.
A living skeleton, wrapped close in the
fabric of my ageing skin. At times,
you even capture a smile. But
rarely – I am not good at smiling.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
This is my third attempt at defining beauty, and it does not any easier with time. I think about the process that I go through when I write. First of all, I need to be in a state of relaxation, with my mind at peace. So perhaps this is a prerequisite for the creation of beauty? Harmony of mind leading to harmony in art.
Secondly, I need something to trigger the act of creation. This can be a memory, a word or phrase that I come across, or an object or place that I see. Often, I use reading as a mechanism for both achieving that harmonious state of mind, as well as for discovering the triggering image. Once the trigger is pulled, the writing is perhaps the easiest part of all. Yes, there is work and there is re-work, but once the mind is in the necessary state of flow that produces poetry, once the creative part of me has been unleashed, then the words just tumble out.
And so, if I look at these elements, it seems to me that harmony of mind is the necessary aspect for the creation of beauty. Perhaps harmony is in fact the underlying element that defines what is beautiful. Perhaps, beauty is when the elements that make up the whole are in balance with each other.
Paul Ilechko was born in England but has lived much of his life in the USA. He currently lives in Lambertville, NJ with his girlfriend and a cat. Paul has had poetry published recently by Dash Literary Journal, Gravel Magazine, Gloom Cupboard, MockingHeart Review and Slag Review, among others.