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No High Altar on Tenth

Pedalling under chestnut vaultings
Dappled shadowed asphalt aisle
Between gnarled pillars and
Past vinetwined fences guarding
Craftsman chapels, stucco
Sanctuaries with peeling porches,
And an Asian saint, smoking,
To the end, where the high altar
Should stand, but only Buy-Low
And the parking lot, like a tray,
With cars like cookies baking.

All We Like Moths

All we, like moths, have gone to flame.
Back-brain tugs urgently on loosening leash,
Pulling us down the dark road, much traveled.

We heedlessly flutter through these gilded ruins
Of failed futures, following false tongues of flame.
Understanding nothing, we fly into darkness.

Where I do not want to fly, I go with bright gaze,
Fixed unthinkingly on these imposter suns,
Letting my longing lead me.

In the dark, pinned wings struggle helplessly
Sticky strands cling tightly and from the gloom
Comes the ominous movement of many legs

Obligatory Musings On Mortality
(Sept 11, 2001)

I arrive early, turn on my machine,
Pour myself a coffee and log myself in,
Start surfing the net, reading the news,
I notice my coffee is spilling, my eyes
Filled with a terrible brightness,
I am pushed forward and then
I am struck
As if by the hand of God
Before I can turn around.


I am walking across the office,
Greeting co-workers cordially,
When there is a roar,
A blast, a flower of flame, like
The wrath of God which plucks
Me from the floor, I feel, flung,
My body burning before
A sudden silence


Smoke pours from below,
The astonished faces as
The floor falls like a cookie
Dunked in tea, pieces breaking
Away into darkness behind me,
And I know the sunny city
Below will never be seen again
By my eyes, and I leap
Into air, my breath taken
As I tumble.

Then, always, then,

They are firm, but polite,
(Cherubim are always thus)
Guiding me forwards.
This place seems familiar,
The place of my nightmares.
"You don't seem to be listed."
I panic, I point to the book,
"I'm sure there's a mistake,
Perhaps look under Allen,
Or maybe Martin, I
Might be mis-listed!"
I feel firm hands on my arms,
"There's no mistake,
Please come with us."
And I am taken, terrified
My only insight
Is in the sounds I hear,
Knowing at last what
It meant when I read of
Teeth gnashing.

It Is Of Razor Blades

It is of razor blades
And of blinding light
It is of pain and joy
Following fast and also
It is of silence and mist
On moonlit fields.

It is of achievement,
And of awards and fame,
But it is more of failure,
And the racking sobs
Of finally, finally giving up.

It is of love and longing,
The completed and
The incomplete,
The blood that spills,
The smile on dry lips.

This is good, this
Can be bottled,
Going to the highest bidder
But for the fact
It never happens
When I want it;
But for the fact
There's never enough

Inconvenient joy,
Stagnant silence,
Meaningless success,
Significant failures,
Always waiting for
What I don't know,
Never in control,
Never satisfied,
Like the grave,
Always hungry

This is a crumpling of my priceless life
In my angry, punching hands,
I am aiming carefully over my
Shoulder all that I am, wanting
To throw it behind me, wanting
Desperately to change it all
Like a pair of worn pants,
To shrug it off like a faded coat,
To step out naked of expectation
In the small, hairless body of a child,
Unscarred by joy and innocent of pain

I am so tired, but I cannot sleep.
I plan but you always direct.
From my mother's womb I
Have been cast upon you;
If this is how you love me,
I do not understand
How anyone could want an eternity.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani --
Or perhaps just leave me alone.

No Doubt

No doubt I am being foolish
For my clustered suspicions;
No doubt you will forgive
Graciously as you have
Doubtless done many times
Before my futile little life.

No doubt I will discover,
My glances askance unfounded;
No doubt I shall someday know,
My skeptic heart an embarrassment;
Doubtless I will one day regret it,
Roundly chastised with Thomas.

No doubt it will seem foolish
To ask for your forbearance;
No doubt you will shake your
Wise head when I ask to be
Doubtless in this clouded life,
When I beg to have no doubt.

I Ran
(Psalm 139)

I ran,
Tired of your house,
Looking for something
Different, new, unknown;
Pursuing Pleasure.

I ran down many strange streets;
I wove my hurried steps through
Barefoot children and businessmen.
Stopping to rest, I saw you there.

I panicked; I ran,
Ducked down an alley,
Your footsteps following;
Now I was the pursued.

I hid,
In bingo halls and brothels,
But you stood patiently outside.
In taverns and nightclubs,
You were smiling at the door.

I drove down winding highways,
Afraid to stop for fear
Of meeting your intense gaze
In truck-stop diner or dingy motel.

You were relentless in your mercy,
Unflinching in your grace.
And at last I came to the end,
Not of the Earth, but of myself.

Broken down on the shoulder,
Slumped against a rusted fender,
I saw your figure on the
Twilight highway running
Running to welcome me home.

They say if you go far enough away,
You'll return home over the curved
Hip of the world. But with you,
It is different; two steps
After turning I'm in your
Forgiving arms.

Aolean Horses

The spring winds rush buffeting
Tonight past her house, an
Invisible stampede of Aolean horses
Running, funneling through the valley
Manes and tails swept back and streaming
The shale only slightly rattling under their
Multitudinous hoofbeats.

She stares through her walls
And hears the forest calling
The soft sighs of needled branches
Telling of the passing of horses
Sweeping through her valley
On their eager way home.

Her distant eyes wander,
Seeing no ceiling,
Only mountaintops that
Stand naked except for
Diaphanous wrappings of
Curling mists,
Protectively carrying upon their
Craggy shoulders the shaggy green
Forests that roll on and over
The silent granite sentinals --

And she is sweeping
Through her valley
Upon the backs of Aolean horses
On their eager way homeward
To the Storehouses of God.


She walks upon forest paths
And pine laden breezes caress her hair.
The unveiled stars know her by name
And the timeweary moon can only stare
At she who moves with doesteps
Through the scented mountain night;
She walks upon forest paths
In the last of the evening's light.

* * *

She, all too solid for her
Doefooted step, yet able
To walk twixt the raindrops
Upon the alpine slopes,
Turning earnest eyes
In my fortunate direction
Pleads to drink from
My cracked clay heart.


I strut my minutes on this cluttered stage
But my brittle postures bear no touch;
A fragile royalty, I toy listlessly with
Abdication or some such default without
Achieving aught. I must always apologize for
Inability or some such fault which I cannot
Comprehend or control, nor have I
Desire to come into contact with such
Within me. I cannot grapple
With usurpers or those who would accuse.
A hemophiliac Hamlet, I must shake my pallid
Fist gently and be carried on a pallet in my malady
To chapels perilously close to brutal touch by
Unforgiving fingers who would cut
More than the pound I have paid for my
Failures and foolish desires for grails beyond
My wasted royalty's reach. I fish desperately
For hints of help as I lapse into the sleep
That surrounds my empty postures upon
This strange shrinking stage, collapsing like
Cards amongst the clutter of castoffs into
A brittle heap of clattering remains which
Are such stuff as fires are made of.

A Psalm of Confusion

O Lord I will praise you
Although I don't understand;
In my darkness I will
Sing praises to your name.

O my Maker, you are mighty;
The storms obey your commands.
How shall I stand in your presence?
Who can see your face and live?

My Lord, I am exceedingly small;
My spirit is lost among millions.
Who will notice my absence?
Who will remember my face when I'm gone?

My Master, Your will is supreme;
My steps shall be guided by your hand.
They go down to death
Who would disobey your commands.

O mighty Sir, I beg You humbly,
Notice this speck of your making;
I am so without understanding that
Your silence seems cruel.

In this world, will we hear you?
In this life, will we see you?
Do you leave only clues to follow
To a faith without human sight?

Most Respectfully

He is Mighty.
(yes, yes)
He is Good.
(yes, yes)
I know I plan my path,
(of course)
But he directs my steps.

He, in His infinite all knowing divine benevolence,
Thought it good to create us flawed with
Chafing freedom with the godlike force
Of choice to freely choose Him--
(He is Good, yes, yes)
-- or what?
-- or what?
Choose Him -- or what?

Cacophonous keening of lost millions
Fills my ears from millenia of sin.
Choose His way, the (yes, yes) right way,
His Lordly kindness drawing us with cords of Love
To his softly feathered bosom or --

I want
(do you dare?)
to choose
(do you understand?)
to know Him
(don't you know the story of bright Luciferus?)
as I am known by Him.

What choice, Sir, most respectfully, Sir,
Do you give me, most low, most small,
(most easily killed, like a mosquito) most
Unworthy -- to choose?
How can I love one
I have not seen?
And how can I not chafe
Beaneath your "choice"
Of your Way or Hell?

How can I, sir, know you,
Even you, who sticks closer
Than my brother
When you play games
With silence and
Ask me to be content
With gifts as from
A rich uncle in faraway lands?

(more than likely)
I am stumble-blind
("you have eyes yet cannot see")
To your GLORY
("blessed are those who have not seen")
And deaf to your voice
("but don't you have His Word?")
When you say, so clearly:

The Most Resistant Strain

The most resistant strain
cannot be eliminated
multiplies and breeds
swarms unchecked
feeding and breeding
excreting and carving
through its dying host.
This is pestilence,
this is plague;
this greedy
creature known
as human.

I could be a suicide bomber
I could build the gas chambers
I could pull the trigger
I could push the Button
only if
the solution was final
the deed was complete
no human stood living
and the quiet earth
would trace her empty path
through the starry sky.


Suspended in the gel of my mediocrity,
Lulled, I don't struggle much.
Frozen hours drip into puddles of seasons;
As if dreaming, caught, I can't move, mired.

I watch the petals of spring pile
In pink drifts on forgetful pavement.
I'm expecting something that never happens
Or perhaps is happening, but is passing me,
Like the crowded years that
Gather like autumnal leaves
Only to scatter with winter's breath.

I am only a gravestone
Waiting to happen
Carved with terse verses
Needing only a second date
To be complete.

"My reader, realize
These words are my only
I lived, I loved, I longed
Tepidly, vaguely,
Without valid passion,
And I hope only
These children, my words,
Live better lives than I did.

No hero, I will hang my head
Ashamed at the throne,
No gains, my gold
Buried then forgotten
Better given to another."

2002: This site and all poetry by Alan M. Bruce, updated in March 2002
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