The Red Period

Writing and poetry
From the 1990's

by Richard Van Ingram

The Lover Takes the Stage

I. Your days are spent spinning
Out crimson thread,
Thread allowed to play
Out on the wind.
And you send it out
Without thought of destination,
The act is the point,
The spinning is the grace
Of the moment;
For you, presence is being
And what is not present,
Is unimportant.
So your days are spent in ignorance
Of my love for you and your motions.

II. Your superfluous threads
Have crossed great distances.
I have found them tangled
In my fiery manic mane
Where they did not burn.
Rather, they jerked me into sanity.

III. The crimson threads found me
Without art or meditation
On your part; I am a random destination,
Not the hoped-for victim
Of your sacred bindings.

IV. If I could bear it I would
Have you look:
You've strung me up
Like some freakish marionette
And your every move
Inspires in me some sympathetic
Twitch or convulsion
Or screaming seizures of the damned.

V. Where your young woman walk
Spreads its reckless grace
As a passing white cloud leaves
Gentle rain in spring,
My unrefined feet must follow
All caked in mud to mock
What the water cleansed.

VI. There you are now
In the fresh field grass
In the velvet dress of green healing
Out singing up the hooked
Horns of the midnight moon.
I am the ever-pleading goat
All black with sin and lust
Running mad around the crooked
Pasture waiting on the farmer's
Rusted knife at dawn.
I am bound fast to my fate
By the sound of your voice
And by these threads.

VII. Woman,
I would not stop your spinning wheel
And I will not damn this prison
Of crimson threads that holds me hard;
No, my curses are not for the spell
Or your subtle curves and fast green glances.
Instead, let my anger turn back
On my own mouth that, in its awed silence,
Is incapable of making my love known
When we speak.
And, for you, what is not present
Is merely a ghost,
And I am less than a ghost,
Another silent man caught in the beauty
Of your rich copper hair.

The Idiot's Lament

Once, I had cigarettes
to fill up the empty spaces.
But I've smoked them all
to vapor
and rubbed the butts to dust
in the gutters.

Once, the stars
rolled around in a waltz
centered on their Celestial Queen.
But now they wander
like eye-wounded soldiers
unable to find their battle-standard.

Day and night
have become one long hum ‚
monotonous, stretching out to leaden
Cupid got me to mainline that junk of his
and now I stumble cross-eyed in the streets.
Senseless, I am deprived of my vocation
as an equilibrist
and can no longer perform the feat
of holding all things together.

The Vagabond Straggles Across the Stage

I. Am I to take a bride
From out of the whirlwind?
For years on end am I
To suck nourishment
From a vague hope
In promises never even made?
Shall my shadow woman and I
Consummate our comic love
Out on the battlefield
Between the shell-bursts?

II. Even ghosts flee the gravity
Of my peaceless ways.
Already all the daughters
Of imagination have lined up
At the barrister's door
Petitioning for a writ of divorce.

III. I am a vagrant even in the familiar streets
Of my own mind. I am intimate with its ditches.
Here you see a parody
Of manhood
And of the lover.
The dogs lick at my sores
And I am a beggar at all tables,
Especially Eros'.
But spare me the crumbs; I'll take the wine.

A Wayfarer's Notes

Worship at the altar of bones and gold
Hades goes well fed in our times.
Who goes without?

I wander the wastes, the land
Of all things broken
And buildings leaning down.

I am plagued by visions ‚
The Virgin, The Black Angel;
Ice, the White Fire, the Raven.

All my books of alchemy
Have failed to speak their
Sideways truths.

I have no magic, no secret
Word to unlock the question,
Who is she?

Go running into the streets
Throwing off the fantasies,
Chant mantras,
Call down higher powers
To clean the filthy rooms,
Crack open beers
And serve pretzels
At the metaphysician's poker game.

There is no salvation in books;
There is no salvation without books.
We will not levitate the Pentagon ‚
We cannot even know the Angel's
Deep name.
It is not Acid.
Nor is it Moloch
And even less is it Nature.
Her name has something to do
With sin and lust, flesh and hot blood,
But salvation, too,
And the feeling
Of icy wind

It is something like Imagination.

But I do not have the word.
This land I wander through
Is a dry place, full of mirages
And monsters,
Ill-formed things.
Products of fever-dreaming minds.

Crab-clawed children
Limp past the ripped-stockinged
Whore with the lizard tongue
French mouth.
A man with money bag head
Pulls on the guillotine wire
And down goes another
Che Guevara want-to-be.

Television guts spew advertising
Worms on screaming, squealing
Women drinking self-righteous
Perfume. Living dead models
Stumble down the runway
Giving out blowjobs
For spoonfuls of sugar smack.

The school catches fire
While parents pray to the Flag;
Congressmen sodomize
The children then charge
For the indignity.
Preachers and priests
Gather like vultures,
Pick off the dying,
Pray for the dead.

Out on the outskirts
Where I live beneath a bridge
She comes to visit in my dreams
And sometimes in the flesh.
She comes and goes in silence,
She does not speak in words.
There is only the dance
And images and the beauty
Of her mouth.

I have dreamt her forever
Or she has dreamt me;
Or we have dreamt one another,
My desire for her beauty
Enflaming her grace into action.

She is the Angel,
Angel of the Damned,
Showing mercy even to one
Outside Heaven's light.
Even here in Hell she appears
As a stripper or a lover
Or a memory or a vision.
Even here, there is rest for me
From the dullness and stupidity.

She requires me to paint and to write.
Perhaps she is telling me
There is some kind of salvation in that.
Only, I still do not know
Her name.

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