Fall of Icarus Matisse


It was his idea, this flying thing.
We collected feathers at night, stuffing
our pockets with mourning dove down. By day,
we’d weave and glue them with the wax
I stole after we’d shooed the bees away.

Oh, how it felt, finally, to blow off Crete
leaving a labyrinth of dead-ends:
my clumsiness with figures, father’s calm
impatience, cool logic, interminable devising.
The sea wind touched my face like balm.

He thought I’d tag along as usual,
in the wake of his careful scheme
bound by the string connecting father and son,
invisible thread I tried for years to untie.
I ached to be a good-for-something on my own.

I didn’t know I’d get drunk with the heat,
flying high, too much a son to return.
Poor Daedelus, his mouth an O below,
his hands outstretched to catch the rain
of wax. He still doesn’t know.

My wings fell, yes – I saw him hover
over the tiny splash – but by then I’d been
swallowed into love’s eye, the light I’ve come to see
as home, drowning in the yes, this swirling
white-hot where night will never find me.

And now when my father wakes
each morning, his bones still sore
from his one-time flight, his confidence undone
because the master plan fell through,
he rises to a light he never knew, his son.

by Christine Hemp

from Graven Images, A Journal of Law, Culture, and the Sacred;
and in XY Files: Poems of the Male Experience Anthology by Sherman Asher Press).

IMAGE: Henri Matisse “Icarus” 1943 guache on paper, cut-out

Poems and Ponderings


ZenBrush_20150111114713 (2)


One more dark morning.
Blowing on the fire

to make another day go.
Without stove and wood

I might not leave
my bed. The tick tick

of cast iron warming,
the sputter of fir, stave off

the muffled grey hovering
outside like a stale,

lingering guest. I can’t
get rid of clouds. The sea

is flat and dull. But I can
sustain this little flame inside

and keep it burning,
stick by seasoned stick.


by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: “January” by Christine Hemp; cyber ink on screen

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Persian Astrologer

Nasa Hubble Stars


Alignment was everything to us and we’d not seen
the likes of such a heavenly body before. We found it
strange that Herod was more keen
about a baby than a star. My colleagues didn’t know
(nor did I) what we’d uncover on that trip, but we agreed
it wasn’t just astrology. We prayed
for signs and followed what we saw.

Before our journey to the birth, gifts once came
with their own requirements and obligations.
To give, really, was to ask
something of someone else. But soon it was revealed
that our largesse was dwarfed by geography
more expansive than our charts could plot. In offering
our little hills, we learned that mountains sometimes
move. Giving no longer means a ledger.

Afterwards I dreamt I saw a despot
licking dust, so we steered our lathered horses
clear of Herod and his plans. And even though the sand blew
in our eyes, we kept our course for home. Everything
was different: Constellations no longer
pointed out the path. We gave up gazing
at the stars for answers. We were haunted
by an ember burning deep inside us.

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE:  NASA, ESA, the Hubble Telescope Heritage Team Photograph, “Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collision” with Hubble Collaboration, and W. Keel (University of Alabama)

Poems and Ponderings




I must admit at first it threw me,
competing with a portent. (What fools
would treasure light instead of might?)
Such naiveté: Scholars trekking here
smitten with a star or some convergence
of the cosmos. Yet another fire to put out.

I sent them on their way, their caravan rife
with herbs I could have used myself. Camels
balking and desert horses restless
in the night. Meanwhile that star hummed
like a lute, vibrating on a frequency I coveted
but couldn’t always hear. I slammed the door,
closed the shutters. No way would it make
a shadow out of me. My wife said,

“No worries. They’ll be back.
Anyway, what child can match your currency,
your death squads? The bricks of that
new temple? And Rome behind you? Get real.”

I pulled her close, forgetting which wife
she was (nine? ten?) and glad to have her.
Weeks later, when those wanderers failed
to return, I glanced into my looking glass.
The eyes staring back at me were nothing
but blank gold coins.

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: Gold Roman coin, circa A.D. 69

Poems and Ponderings




I’ve always been good at following directions.
House plans, for instance. I can see the shape, make
allowances for framing windows, hanging doors.
I always give the time it takes for good mortar to dry.

The structure of this plan, however, is beyond me.
No hammer or plumb bob will help. So I’ve packed us up
and we’re headed down the road. I have to say I’m glad
to leave. My neighbors whispering behind my back,

“Old Joseph! Couldn’t wait, could he?” The boys at the shop
turning tactfully as I plane a board, shavings curling
toward the east. And yet— and yet— I agreed
to go ahead. That dream I cannot shake. Now Mary’s

shapely breasts are so full and ready I can only blush.
One would not expect to find the holy nestled there!
(Such moist and glowing flesh.) I’ve never been a visionary
nor someone called to lead. Nor am I a vessel

like this girl whose face could light the sky. I guess
the closest I can get to what I feel is the song of the saw
singing timbers into working parts. Each cut-off piece
will build a solid story. But I’m worried. All along

the road people have been telling us the rooms are full,
that some folks are bedding down in barns. In my dream
I saw my clumsy feet walking down this very road.
Her water broke with mules and horses standing by.

Tonight we’re buying time. While she’s asleep my tears
could fill a bowl. It’s not sadness exactly or even fear,
but tenderness so huge my eyes ache from what
I cannot see. For if this is true— really true— what then?

by Christine Hemp                                                                                                     IMAGE: from “Woodworking Tools and Plans”  blog

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Between the Buddha and the Mary



after paintings by Sas Colby

Between the Buddha and the Mary,
silence enters, falters, then expands.
Seen together, those familiar faces carry
something new. Like outstretched hands,
one is Buddha, the other Mary.

A marriage blooms: Mary. Buddha.
Girl and boy. East and West. Faces
meeting ours in frames of gold. A
touch of Burma, Black Madonna. Places
we’ve not been pull us in. (Neruda

would understand.) The Buddha and the Mary
watch us. Soon we’re no longer out
looking in. His level gaze. Her hair. He
asks us to receive. She invites. Wide
spaces open up for us. Oh, Buddha-Man,

we get an inkling of what your silent
smile is saying, what the halo plays.
For we are in you looking out, intent
to hear the anthems all ablaze.
Years apart, you and blushing Mary sent

us eyes to finally see. Furtive virgin, holy
man, even when our lids are closed
the vision stays! You teach us slowly
lest our tiny minds forget we are poised
for eternity. Baby steps toward the Wholly

Other. Some days we awaken and look
at one another to find that you are me. I am you.
Those once apart are now the same, a book
with facing pages pressed together. Who
knew? The Buddha and the Mary remake,

transform our stumbling thoughts (Mary
in her pondering, Buddha in his calm) to mesh
with theirs. I imagine it’s their prayer
that we might see, might shiver in our flesh
and know what lies between Buddha and the Mary.

–by Christine Hemp
from THAT FALL  (Finishing Line Press)

IMAGE: Sas Colby , “In Our Own Image”
Twelve framed paintings each 9 x 12 inches, Black gesso and gold leaf on oil painted 4-ply museum board. Installation 41 x 41 inches

Poems and Ponderings


Botticelli's Annunciation


by Christine Hemp

IMAGE: “The Annunciation” Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi) 1485, Florence, Tempera and gold on wood 7 1/2 x 12 3/8 in. (19.1 x 31.4 cm); Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Poems and Ponderings



Hummingbird and Trumpet Flower final


I squeeze myself into Time. It’s tight
like a little coat or a skin I’m much too big for.
I do it, though, for Spaciousness – for the Light

I bring with me. Her eyes at first blink with tears,
her pupils wide, and in them I can see the door
of history: the tree she springs from—the sheer

audacity of that branch growing beyond her womb
into memory, blood, and bone. Before
I raise my hand I cannot help but see a tomb

as well; it’s why I’m here: That gyre
of Time. Prepositions cannot explain or
place the where or when of that Fire

who sent me. It’s all a gift, and what I bring
has no relation to being good, that poor
imitation of love. Horns, halos, or even wings

are not my story, though there are those who
try to make it so: Me on the immaculate floor
holding a white lily I am said to carry through

the corridors of temples, famous paintings.
But she sees beyond all that. At her core
she’s at home within her flesh, sustaining

calm when the spark ignites. She holds her belly,
opens her mouth. I tell her something more
about the seed, the fruit. All she does is stare at me.

In our brief exchange, I taste her fear,
but she does not flinch. “Yes,” she says. (Lord,
how much joy and sorrow can a human bear?)

by Christine Hemp

IMAGE: Larry Keller, “Hummingbird with Trumpet Flower” 2013






Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: The Rain Rises

toby wild field














The mist rises from the pavement after rain.
The pavement rises, too, and says goodbye.
The toad goes nowhere till the rain raises him.
A hurricane wind strains the road’s undulations.
The terrain moves, changes as the rain rises.

After the rinsing rain, we can see the road
And ride its curves and follow it upward.
Look! The road is rising to the sky! And we
Are riding it like fools, like wise men
Who know only that they must go. We rise,

The mist turning into skirts, our legs white
Against the plain blue sky now showing
Through the clouds. Everything rises, finally,
Doesn’t it? All of us, wind-billowed and hazy,
Our bodies turned to mist inside the rain.

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: Mark Tobey, “Wild Field” Tempera on board, 1959

Poems and Ponderings


Ezter Imres Must Produce collage 2



arrange our cups
and plates on the floor
in the shape
of a clock. Watch
time stand still.

by Christine Hemp

IMAGE:  Eszter Imre,    “Must Produce” series, Porcelain (2012)

Poems and Ponderings