A permission gate opens
narrower than the light
that seeps through an egg crack.
Permission to do or undo.
is the best time to wander
through a field marked by question.
Benjamin, night crept into my brain
with strange and pregnant interrogations
and I wonder if you’ve known the same
phenomenon. Those sinewy askings
that go on
Did Dante notice the thousand crossed twigs
along the path
or was he blind with vision?
Shakespeare cry over Lear
upon waking from his own
(I feel like a man in the guts
of a machine made of vibrating string,
chords of why.)
Light seeks no permission
to pour through glass of stain
or wave away in dots for half the day.
What, Benjamin, when darkness comes
with its agenda of do and undo
does night ask of you?
glass looks better broken, anyway.
pops, sometimes I sit soaked in a vat of ink –
that’s when the irises feel the most irrelevant.
night creeps like it doesn’t want to wake me,
and just sits softly on my brain.
seeps in through the roots of my canals
and (almost shyly) questions.
“I guess,” I chant (to it and her and even you sometimes).
I’ve got maybe one guess for those sinewy askings that go on,
those oil rivers flooding through the shattered windows of my room –
see pops, I learned in chemistry that energy isn’t given
to the cosmos when bonds are broken,
but when they’re formed.
I’ve been sitting near the fire all day.
Sitting in it.
And the fire sits in me.
(See: apocryphal Jesus:
proximity to fire;
Meaning(s) to come
I’m a big fan of flames.
You can’t go anywhere in my brain
without passing through one.
But what if I’ve burned someone?
That’s real sorrow.
That’s the smoke of ignorance,
If you’re going to be the flame, be the balm too.
When you’re on Thayer
and you hear behind your back
go buy a candle
and light it for all the hearts
go pass through a sad boy or girl’s irises
and up into cortex and proceed to conflagrate
with struck-match hope.
You’ll do it, too, if I know you.
What else is there to do with fire?
if you were to light my brain on fire
you would grow ultraviolet cotton candy
fire = water in that sometimes I try to hold it back with walls
eyelash girl, wrapped in wool coat, raccoon hat, heavy shawl, thick boots
has a fever in mid-July equator noon,
perched upon volcanic rock sipping scalding boils of water.
despite all dams
any fort and tower
that that flickers
gallops over and on top of me
combusting ultraviolet and leaving my physical
to rest in the reeds.
Q & A4
Question In the fMRI, frantic arrows
fly everywhere around my brain
shivery, gray, and jello
like October in a windskull:
call it turbulence into opulence.
I’ll ask science:
can the brain of a man turning greener with age
like an answer throbbing secret joy
hidden inside an answer bleeding doom?
Question: do children and their parents worry about each other
in different parts of the brain?
Or do parts of children and parts of their parents
exchange their differences in the same brain?
Because when I was a little boy, I was sick for many weeks.
I wondered, was the fog off the Kill Van Kull
so full of particles of New Jersey poison
that it could use my blood as a sponge?
Then my mother brought in a bowl of silent soup.
Alphabet, it was. Salt of the earth, it was.
I think some of the words got stuck in our throats.
Words like I love you and I don’t know how
and won’t you please heal (for) me.
The reason I stopped being sick was that it was time to start writing poems.
If you leave off the question mark, is the answer
when I was very small very little they used a military-grade camera
to snip snap pictures of my optic nerve.
the one that connects these crystal eyes topped with skylashes to my engine.
the one that causes a 1° blind spot in the dead center of my visual field.
science has only ever stirred my syllable soup
and they won’t let me fMRI because the magnet they say will tug the
bolts from my broken and rebuilt ankle and rearrange my skelestructure.
as if I don’t rearrange my me every morning in the mirror.
I share a brain with you, pops. not a metaphor, never a metaphor.
so you should be surpriseless when I tell you I was illmatic too
right up until it was time to start writing poems.
I stood up that day quickly, thinking,
there’s an awful lot more light in this room than before
Q & A5
I didn’t sing this to you when you were a baby
–river of light, flood of light
flows in from out, glows out from in
laughs & overtakes the feary night–
ah, but the way it felt to throw your pink shimmerself into the air
& the poemdreams you gurgled twinkle twinkle delight
& the way it felt to audience you and your glimmerglass sister
in tutu brilliance, to be one of a riveted crowd of two (with Sue)
& witness the unprecedented ballet of your miracle bodies
& oh the way my hands ached at the end of every day of work
not from work but for the touch of you both,
for the okay okay this is finally right,
my ear-throb need for daddy daddy.
Only when sated would I take to my evening pen: invention
and a Susankiss for luck,
heart-soothed & moony bright
was how I approached my poem-questions
way back then.
And I’m still mesmerized by the way children emerge from a river
like clean & alien messages
spiffy & beautified by the fact that they can not be deciphered.
(It must have been so with me when I was formed by foam
–though I don’t know if anyone was there to see;
in dreams I watch the figure of a boy with a curly-haired brain
there on the dirty floor of ideas he liked to lay on
trying hard hard too hard (eyes pointed like flame to mind)
to figure himself in,
–torn cardboard canvass,
broken vermillion crayon.
I told the urgent reporter that the day science proves God
they’ll find us in the River Yes.
Many others, too.
Not a single body
Told her we’re lucky (even maybe random lucky)
we got word
ahead of time.
She wants to talk to you, too. What’ll you tell her, dude?
And what’ll you leave out?
burst onto the seen
every single one of these alien eyes man, every single one
is wide oven,
(watch me cook, look at me cheffin’)
cook hot enough and they’ll come to put me on the twitter feed
cook 2hot and they’ll kick me back to crayon curly fries,
back to cribby spitballing and rattle-pinwheel hats.
but I guess I got an early start (lucky so lucky to inherit
the ultraviolet seedlings of the curly-haired brain)
& so I’ll tell her: I and you, me and pops, every beatle (even ringo)
popped into this world of pink in one flashbulb bang (is what my gut texted me)
science (mi amore) working real tough to prove godless.
like watching my hippity-hip-hoppity sun
argue with my pearly tsunami daughter (I’d imagine).
I’ll tell her the kid’s never been luckier than when I got word ahead of time,
& I won’t shout her screaming and kicking
“he’s there he’s there, don’t you sea?”
I’ll say flash more pictures
Steven Ostrowski is a widely published poet, fiction writer, songwriter, and is the author of three chapbooks. Benjamin Ostrowski is a senior at Brown University, majoring in psychology. He has recently begun publishing his poems in literary journals and magazines. They are father and son, and their first collaboration, a chapbook of poems called Seen/unseen, has been accepted for publication in 2017 by Cervena Barva Press.
W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com). To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over four-hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.