Artwork for Sam Rasnake's poems

Five Poems
Sam Rasnake

A view of the pines, near Pisa

In the hot steel cage
on a concrete slab,
no bed for sleeping,
the old man, more sad

than dangerous, carried
Homer in his head—and
on his shoulder a box he
tried but could never open

~ ~ ~

Acceptance Must Be the Highest Art
A woman with her baby monkey, N.J., 1971
(photo by Diane Arbus)

The strongest look—or is it unshakable
love—between mother and child, is not
a fractured gaze into the black hollows
of each other’s eyes (no room for ego
or reason) but in the same direction,
out and beyond, into the sacred what
, where dreams hide their one gift in
storms of the nothing that must be
something though we have no words,
no labels for it, no way of telling any
version, as if that were needed or better
or even possible. This look doesn’t care
about that. It only knows, only wants
the truth of holding and being held.

~ ~ ~

[Morning is a redheaded woodpecker]
—a bit of music: Feels Like Rain, Buddy Guy; World Without Tears,
Lucinda Williams; Boats to Build, Guy Clark

Morning is a redheaded woodpecker
at the suet by the pear tree, beads of
light to shimmer the grass in a cool
haze of longing that won’t last nearly
long enough, a restless tune in my head,
inescapable as a stretch of road between
two seas, words from an old friend who
left the table empty—words I’ll never get
back though I try to speak, there’s only
the silence I’ve learned to take, to hold
like a cup as if today might be the most
remarkable swallow of universe—of course
it’s not, but I let it slip into my body anyway,
shut my eyes, and become a holy prayer

~ ~ ~

For the kid who fell down the stairs (if that’s the term) when he was 9,
but could only remember the string from the light swinging,
shadows moving on the floor like cars through the window
on Anderson or wind over the unmowed lawn


~ ~ ~

(a sonnet from the other side)

freedom isn’t freedom anymore, maybe
words fall on us like Jericho’s walls, like
planetesimals from a remote solar nebula—
given enough time our tongues are guns
with full clips and broken safeties for grip,
for thumb and half-cock, maybe our hate
is one big circle of disgrace moving farther
and further from any center we could hope
to dream as home so we give up dreaming,
leaving only us and them—maybe freedom
is Turkish delight, everything in moderation
and more, or not—or it’s chaos theory as
gospel with testimonial: where are they now—
maybe that’s why we love to throw rocks

Sam Rasnake’s Comments

Shame is a brutal beast. One of the great fears—and maybe the worst enemy. Hard to say. But a small bit can hold back any greatness—can paralyze the heart and mind. It’s the relentless call from every bully. Just a dab, and whatever it is that defines us disappears from the inside. Two roads bend away in a yellow wood, and unable to choose, we find a stump and sit … and sit … and sit. Sometimes we write, and the world—if only for a moment—becomes a livable place.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016