Hope and other poems by Gregory Holmes Singleton

chicago-14125263993YSJourney through the Forest of Enigma

A BRIEF AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A child of mossy swamps and root-dyed creeks
Escapes to majestic mountains and the mighty sea below,
Detours to the island of steel and concrete giants,
Then comes to rest on the western shore of the long lake.

A child of feed corn and sugar cane
Migrates to the land of dreams and illusion,
Jumps to the frantic metropolis that never sleeps,
And comes to rest in Mid-American comfortable reality.

A child of platitudes and vacant thoughts
Learns new worlds on the Pacific slopes,
Glimpses the divine in Gotham’s Gothic corners,
And finds a sort of serenity north of the Loop.

A child of fixed reality and lazy consensus,
Formed by the literal Word of a made-up god
Finds God in questions and uncertainties;
Finds answers in sporadic compassion.

A child of empty eyes devoid of passion
Ventures forth and after twists and turns
(Some sweet memories, some bizarre, some frightening)
Finds solace in the Heartland’s Emerald City.

A child of children made hard
By a world they could not escape
Ventured forth to find himself,
Leaving family behind in fading memory.

The child is laid to rest
So the man might live,
Plagued only now and then
By memories that will not die.

Yet the child lives, mostly dormant
But called forth from time to time
And still runs away again—and again—
Whenever necessary.

 

ANY GIVEN MOMENT

Any given moment
Life can and will
Change; sometimes
In ways so radical
We can scarcely
Believe
It’s the same world.

Any given moment
IT can happen
With such subtlety
We don’t take notice;
And those are the shifts
That throw us
The most.

Any given moment
We can assume
All is as it was,
Yet one degree turn,
Hardly worth our notice,
Can change the course of life
And leave us wondering
Weeks, years later
When IT happened
And what IT was.

Any given moment
Choose disaster
Over the mesmerizing
Ennui of a status quo
Stable as quick sand.
Choose tumult
Over slow killing

Gradual decline
In which free fall
Feels like
Comfortable familiarity
Until we realize
That nothing is
As it was.

Ah, if only
We could choose,

But too often
We see potential
And call it actual.
We see stagnation
And call it smooth gliding.
We see mediocrity
And call it quality.
We fall into quiet stupor
And call it contentment.

And the hell of it is
Any moment
The truth can blind us
And the bottom
Falls out of our world.

More hellish yet,
We never see
The abyss into
Which
We have fallen.

Standing in Solidarity with Job

Amid promises and projections
Of better longer enhanced life
Proclaimed with pretentious posturing
And smarmy sweet sentiments
By would-be messiahs
I sense the smell of snake oil,
The odor of ephemera,
The stench of ersatz.

It is the lone and lonely voice
Telling me what
I don’t want to hear
That grabs me by the
Gut, mind and heart,
And assures me that
The only way out
Is through;

That speaks to me
In sometimes harsh tones
Through the hush
Of a whirlwind;
And ultimately declares
That mine own right hand
Can save me.

Day In and Day Out

At dawn I greet
Continued struggles and new challenges,
Old friends and unfamiliar faces,
Sustaining beliefs and fresh perspectives,
A familiar world and revolutionary insights.

Throughout the day
I sift through the old
Discarding what holds me back,
Holding firm to what keeps me standing;
I evaluate the new for consideration.

At dusk I greet
An evening of reflection and rest
And look forward to the same cycle
That begins again with dawn
And continues world without end.

Some poor souls
See this as tedium and seek escape
In mindless mesmerizing entertainments,
But as for me it is a life
Filled with perpetual possibility.

Hope

Many years and tears ago
My hope was mere projection
Of wants conjured by ego;
A vain self-serving confection.

Many a frustrated dream
Not worthy of discussion
Taught me lessons that now seem
An end to self-seeking compulsion.

Many happy years have passed
Since those tortured days of old.
Hope is thankfully at last
Beyond my imagined control.

Hope is now a state of mind;
Walking into new terrain
And willing to seek and find
Exciting new questions to frame.

Reflections on Conversations with Absolutists

Certainty is a comfortable place
That keeps life on a dull even pace,
A fiction embraced by Fundamentalists,
Opus Dei, and devout atheists.

Certainty is an induced conclusion
To avoid salutary confusion
By trumping thoughtful deliberation
With shouts of “I Know!” without hesitation.

Certainty is an enemy of critical reason
That sees doubt as the ultimate treason
Against convenient (if stifling) propriety
Upheld by the enemies of an open society.

Certainty is uncomfortable with diversity,
Out of place in a university.
Let us this uncertain terrain traverse
As we walk different paths while we converse.

Apologia of a Retired Historian

The world of historians is curious,
It’s not like ordinary time.
Minutes and hours mean nothing,
We start with the present then decline
Into the maze of old parchment
To discover (well, guess) how we got here
As we project what we expect to find.

We trace evidence we mold into episodes
From which we infer complex epics
That are then expanded to epochs
Convincing all but hard-boiled skeptics
That we’ve discovered the secret code
Of cause and effect in the flow of events
Whether glorious, hum-drum, or septic.

Historians tell stories quite neatly packaged
But let’s seek a more honest objective.
Integrity would be better served
If we humbly offered tentative perspectives,
Admitted how much we don’t know
And the quicksand base of our suppositions,
Then engage in dialog thoughtfully reflective.

Gregory Singleton specializes in American Social and Intellectual History, American Religion, and Social History with four decades of teaching experience and scholarly production. Now that he is retired, he dabbles in writing fiction and verse, mostly for the amusement of neighborhood pets.

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