Daniel Kemper – Five Poems

The Step

The perfect poem never falls or drops
a step. The dance accentuates the lips,
the stare, the strain, the pizzicato stops;
yet once or twice with great, dramatic dips
it leans across the open heart and calls.
The Lead is not The Lead. The Follow chose
the open space wherein the lead recalls
his breath. And takes the step. The tempo grows
as fleshy verse, frenetic but for grace
and statuesque except for sweaty turns,
shows flight is falling save the quick embrace
that swoons it to a dip- and so returns
the step. The perfect poem never falls.
It leans across the open heart and calls.

Life New

…Whose souls, albeit in a cloudy memory, yet seek back their good, but,
like drunk men, know not the road [back] home.

A torn heart does not always bleed
organic red or scarlet hues,
or crimson sheets; it bleeds tattoos
in languages you cannot read;
it bleeds the stuffy day-job tweed
of deft drag-queens, the beat of blues,
the hunger of the young-danseuse:
it bleeds the crime of human need.

The rupture is not always due
to overt loss, but sometimes too,
vibrations made by butterflies
build hurricanes out of the blue 
and glaciers bead with rainbow dew
created by some faint sunrise.

Our torn hearts strive as sinners who,
like cloudy drunks, don’t know how to-
to find our home. The new life lies
here upside down, yet no less true:
All love is agony for you,
for me, it daily lives and dies.

The Hope of a Better Day

The spring wind whips across the muddy lake
and all the trees are bare except for one,
the honeysuckle, who does not forsake
the risky prematuraties I run.
The winter hasn’t yet released its hold
and yet she scatters blossoms everywhere.
They look like snow. They overwhelm the cold
with fragrances that no one else can share
not even sunset. Cloud on cloud on cloud
go by. I long for spring whose eyes and lips
I might enjoy; whose hair I’d be allowed
to touch, whose ample undulating hips,
would hypnotize me as she walked this way,
the joy and promise of a better day.

Blameless Insomnia

It’s not your fault you woke me up last night.
–was looking at your legs and I forgot
to breathe– to breathe! And by the time I got
my wind again, there was only moonlight
beside me on the bed. It isn’t right,
I know, but still I guess that it is not
exactly wrong. Something that you’ve got
survives the office, traffic, twilight
and stays with me all night long. Your eyes
behind your standout shades, or tucked behind
your office reading glasses- how they keep
me wanting more but never compromise.
If only once, to slide them off, unbind
your hair, and touch your face–No I can’t sleep!

Cupid’s Cup

He does not deign to speak and his facade,
implacably bemused… is just awesome,
I must admit– He is indeed a god,
the son of Gaiea, son of Chaos, some
have said, and yet for all of his disdain,
we sit as two men might who know they share
a love, and share the pain, and through that pain
would talk. I start to pour. He doesn’t care;
he rolls his eyes. I stop. I am no god,
but I will have respect. I stare him down.
Just then he brings my lover by to prod
me with, I’m not sure how. I stay locked down.
She fades. He nods and slides his empty cup
across the table showing me to fill it up.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

It’s dawn again and mist blurs pale light blue.
Were my eyes open and waiting for light?
Or did night pass and pull its purpled height,
tumbling toward the dark horizon, out to
the stars, and on, before my vision knew
the world outside my self? What is this light?
I do not know. I do not get it right,
yet here’s the world. And here I am, and you? 
I’m left with light. The time of dreams has passed
and so I do not know if sight or light
was first. I know that even emptiness,
made more than beautiful by you, can’t last;
that human flaws exist, however slight, 
that Beauty lives as something still at rest.

At rest? The fallow fog begins to churn,
the air to glow, to blush from blue to red,
the motion to remind me things we said 
in whispers yesterday, gone still now, burn:
that yesterday is yesterday’s concern
for now, that you’re not here. What’s here instead
is something dark and still and left unsaid,
is something of a gift I can’t return.
As glinting horizontals vanish toward
the glinting stars, some scintillations might
be dewy jewels on grass, Formica-zest 
in asphalt lots, or worlds to be explored.
Those crystals crack that chrysalis of light
to spectra, but–some force remains at rest.

What is at rest? And what does it become
in motion? Tears? But they do not endure 
the night. Then red becomes a gold that you’re 
not here to see. The glow surrounds the sum
of all desire and what desires become:
a darkling life beginning in a blur,
a being pure, and yet no longer pure,
Imago Dei, flawed and yet still awesome.
Did Adam look on Eve before she woke 
as I’ve looked on this long horizon’s glow?
My soul, my flesh of flesh, my bone of bone, 
and my “let-there-be-light” before it broke?
So beautiful– but resting; even so,
it is not good for man to be alone.     

And there it is, I know it now: The song    
of love unsung, the force of love at rest:
untamed potential, imperfectly expressed,
a full anticipation savoured long 
or past participation savoured long, 
the hard forgetting deftly kept repressed.
How beautiful it beams, that love at rest,
even if foretold or retold wrong.
Does all this satisfy or activate
desire? The activation of the day
and satisfaction of the night, possessed
as dawning brokenness, unfortunate-
ly, is quite beautiful. Just as you lay
before, but that is Beauty–Love at rest. 


Daniel Kemper is an unaccomplished man. He has walked The Bridge of No Return across the Sachong, and returned. He’s carried an acolyte’s cross at dawn and heard poetry at The Gates of Hell at midnight (Rodin Gardens). He’s touched the bones of Dinkenesh and climbed Masada at Dawn. He’s been “How Berkeley Can You Be” and walked the Pamlico barefoot. He’s brought two children into the world and taken his father out of it. He’s written when there was no one he could tell about it and he now submits some of the bits of beauty he has found along the way.