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SIX POEMS – Nathaniel Bek

on June 3 | in Poetry | by | with No Comments

My art teacher once said
“The clay is as it was born”
And I think of my mother
Her spine cradled me into this
I accepted welcoming like a common burdock
Face full of straw burs
I was born sunny side up, hard against the back
To this day she has never broken
The silence of how she has labored me
And I am as the seed is to earth
A restless palm reaching for the air
A broken shell of a good living
A stubborn massing of roots
Or that of my mother’s will
A happening anthology of chances
That finally stayed
My mother tells me of a sister never born
And I am born again
A bundle of lashes, hair, and smiles
Twenty-four hours of unrest wrapping a father’s finger
I was unbending enough to arrive
Here like an unfurled bow
A present that has been asked for again
But what open lung has not asked for the same
Is this what keeps me, or
Am I too afraid to return
To everything I have ever called home
Leaving and returning can sound the same
I too am the clay as it was born
A thing of the earth too estranged to stay here

“I have dug an organ from under the basement”– Irina Bogomolova,
“They Will Not Bleed for Us”


The stains don’t wash off the way they used to
But a tremble in my hand still shakes the water free
I don’t think I will ever find an apology down here
Just old containers filled with a person I barely knew
Unboxing this can feel like clemency if I let it
But where do we put the body when we’re done

Snip the snarl leaving the claws where they tremble
There is no room for rumble and gnashing
Let the wild run out of you like a loose tongue
Smile; and breathe deep with your bones
Like the body hasn’t experienced this attention before
Anxious is the power that calls the wicked out of you
Leave the blood on the canines this time
Do not fear the sound of your own voice
Face found in the oven of this heat
Speak with your teeth and let your fur stand for you
Even when you are tired
Let the meal leave you hungry
Don’t give into this and all that rests behind the door
Leave it
And let it be what it’s always been
But try not to chase the footsteps that haunt the night
Try not to feel the rippling tide of muscle that
Calls your senses to lament
This can be an open window with a good breeze
If you lean into the glass
And let your eyes chase the things that escape in the trees

A story is just a collection of dead trees that
We never let the earth keep
But what good is rich soil when we’re poor
On loving our dirty hands
                         We had enough for the children we hadn’t had
                             In the mornings we never shared the covers
        Never let the cold bite us before the dawn shook our eyes open
                               We never knew a splinter of a frame
             Just little words nestled between box springs and backboards
                                        That kept us up all night
I keep finding us under my fingernails
A cold bed side and rustled covers
I should have slept in
The morning isn’t anything but a full throat
Too dry to recite our dreams
Or a barren meadow we keep trying
to yield conversations of the night from
But sometimes it is a pair of eyes
That haven’t woken up yet
A fearful breath on the downward whirl
Of a rollercoaster
Life is just as hard to live as it is to love and
Sometimes life is a percussion of atoms
Colliding in a crescendo of mathematical chaos
And sometimes it is us
       Joinery is just the act of marrying two pieces of wood
That is what I would say if I knew how to ask you
We are just a collection of stories that
Haven’t found our way back to the ground yet

         If I shave, the razor will be sharp enough to cut the past from my body this time. Make a clean face of all my bad decisions till I can look at myself in the mirror again. I have learned to make tattoos of my scars. An art piece for the truth that is overcoming. There are so many impossibilities to make possible if you breathe them in. If you exhale expectations till your body remembers promise. There is no road to follow here: just dirty hands, feet, and a lot of blood I left behind.
I have learned to love painting the ground with failures again. Learned to let my heart speak for when my throat is full of ears. It is so easy to say the things you want to hear, but harder to live out the ones you don’t. I have made a bed of forgiveness, even when I do not sleep in it. On the worst days when the lights dim enough to make the night rest inside of me, I have learned that some birds sing at 3:00 am. The world can sound like an orchestra in autumn or just the falling of acorns. Silence is as beautiful as it needs to be, and I have learned to make my bed with a sheet set of insomnia. I no longer need to pull the blinds on my eyelids with bottle caps. These days I rest with a heartbeat that is more restless than mine. I drank down love in a bar and have been hung over heels for her ever since. I have learned to make things with my hands again, even when I am afraid, they will be too fragile to hold on to. I have learned to be fragile. Patience is something I still wait for on occasion. But some things are just not worth waiting for. Sometimes the sky cracks the clouds open long enough to think the weather mastered perfection. Other times it is just her smile. Luck is not something I would gamble on, but I would make a full house out of this. With nothing to lose but everything. I can only be all that has made me. Two tired hands and a dream for something more.

If we let the past
It would run time like leaves
Make maple of our blood and
Stir our nostrils wild
Pancakes and good jazz on Sunday morning
We would be like we were always meant to
This is an ode to you
And us
To all the people who ever laughed louder than the sky
Who made hopscotch of puddles
This is for the dreamers that still converse with the night
For the ones who make a home out of anything
For the treetop in all of us that still reaches for the sun
Let’s make a miracle sound like our own again
Reimagine the things we made of the clouds
Then dare to do it all again
Nathaniel  Bek is a writer, artist, and activist originally from Wisconsin. He was selected Editor’s Choice for poetry in Phoenix – Art & Literary Magazine, and was a semifinalist for Eber & Wien. Several of the poems have been published in Narrative Northeast. He has competed nationally for Spoken Word at the National Poetry Slam and Individual World Poetry Slam. He was the organizer, and host of “Get Lit,” a literary series that was nominated for Best of Orlando. Nathaniel also assists with various youth programs in the Orlando area where he currently resides. He can be found on all social media at NCBEK Poetry.

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