In the Public Eye

(This poem is a tribute to the artists from my childhood who lived and died highly public, highly tragic lives — people like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Dana Plato, Gary Coleman and now Whitney Houston. I hope they have found peace in eternal rest.)

in the public eye
a child can be raised up
strong-armed into submission and hoisted
above the shoulders of a colossus
left to wrestle with fate while suspended on high
only to be slammed into a canvas
painted with their naïveté
while the blood lust of the crowd
screams its pleasure into shaken ears

in the public eye we create darlings
who are given a loom and endless thread
with which to spin gold with their talents
while we allow the thread to knot
when left to unfettered devices
preferring to spin yarns of their memories
instead of weaving a beautiful tapestry
to capture their lively essence
and comprehending too late
always too late that the product
from such a wealth of raw material
formed under tremendous pressure
leaves a warped creation behind
fit only to be soaked then
hung out to dry

and in the same public eye
an unsuspecting dreamer can be elevated
on a hydraulic lift to theatrical effect
by the drama of actors and directors
with a major role and no minor implications
controls manipulated by strangers
then brought viciously back down to earth
by the dysfunction of the platform operators
who will return the next day and
play the same role the same way
despite the carnage they create

i have seen too many car wrecks
that can never be termed true accidents
and been privy to secrets so heart-wrenching
that we all know like the pattern of veins
upon the backs of our own hands
spilled like platelet beans and used for ink
on demonic contracts solely meant
to disenfranchise the vulnerable and
emasculate innocents masked from their true circumstances
to fuel the fire of the beast through power
generated from kids as kindling

there is so much dirt and there are so many lashes
accumulating in the public eye
it’s amazing it can see anything anymore
discern shapes and shadows one from the other
so it can distinguish shiny fanciful objects
from the singed supernovas of superstars
it tries ever more frantically to find bright lights
to stare into and through with laser focus
until the intensity of gaze incinerates the object of desire
leaving only charred ruin in its wake

tribute by tributary dammed while subject fried
then busted open and rafts of masses taken for a ride
once the star burned out, fizzled and died
only then could lids liquefy and overflow with pride

as the breathless sighs subside
it is only then when we fully recognize
after saline tears roll away and are swept aside
that there is now a new child shivering petrified
directly in line with the jaundiced crossed spy
of the public eye

and as another is groomed by the machine to be deified
then subjected to flashbulb rumours and false allies in disguise
only to be crucified on the altar of celebrity supersized
consumed ravenously by pop culture mass-produced lies

when the anointed one dies before our highly public eyes
we never stop to ask ourselves – why.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2012. All rights reserved.


Now or Never

she told me it was now or never
it was a time for change
and the meaning of this can be found in the roots
of our discussions, electric and airy
instantly appearing in our mind’s eyes
traceable through the currents of our souls
as the juiciness of our blackberries
drips sweet nectar from the fruit of our labours
heavily into the pay it forward columns
of our life balances

the scales of justice finally tilt my way
one listing lip protrudes like a cleansing spout and
sand particles rain down like tears of joy
bury past dissatisfactions cadaverous cold
in the depth of previous despair
and in the sunlight of newfound clarity
where her eyes dance like marionettes with
strings attached nowhere except to my heart
i raise prayers to the heavens like poker wagers
flush with straight knowledge of my full house
of paired love brimming to bursting within me

i had convinced myself it would be never
the build-up of past emotional disasters
heavy like radioactive water in the Japanese sea
and the fallout just as everlasting
but the quietude at the core of my being that was
resigned to the yo-yo effect of unbalanced love
screams out in joy at the fevered reality she brings
into a life trying to be more than not unhappy
she makes me want to reach for more
the sound of her voice makes me yearn for more
her hand in mine makes me long for more
and her words of mutual attraction and affection
make me know more is possible between us

but even with that knowledge
i also know that now is not the time
not yet
changes need to happen that are beyond my control
the patient is still on the table and the
patient are awaiting their time of healing
with resuscitating knowledge the blessing is coming
belief and faith stoke the charcoal stove passion
she fuels in me with her poker to boil me to scalding heat
hot runs the fluids within me that sustain me
my heart pumps my self-esteem full with steam
and my confidence in what we will become explodes

at the root of it all, she is in me
has been for longer than either of us truly realized
misconceptions dating to the very beginning kept us parted
and like the Red Sea, when the water walls crashed back together
the misbelievers in the middle died in ignorance
but in this case the wayward were her and i
we drowned lacking the knowledge that one
held a torch for the other
we allowed the flames to be snuffed out because we
lacked the courage to tilt our torches together and
make the effort to forge sustained guiding light
out of fear the combination of flames
might scorch the holders rather than
illuminate the way ahead

but we no longer have time nor patience
to burn away the final traces of bindings
that lash us unrepentantly to the tree of knowledge
there is no sin in sampling this fruit
and feeling the river run down my cheeks
knowing she will be there to savour me clean
when the moment of sharing finally arrives

but in the present moment
she told me it was now or never
it was a time for change
the meaning of this can be found in the roots
of our newly amorous discussions, electric and airy
it branches out into all aspects of our souls
and leaves no unsweetened space between us
as the juiciness of our blackberries
drips sweet nectar thick with possibility
heavily into the pay it forward columns
of our life balances.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.

Spirit Seeds

spirit seeds
strung together to forge links
that supersede European contact
from the earth to heal and nourish
in respect of the laws of the Creator

spirit seeds
planted in the hearts of humans
sprout forth to support life
buried in the love that grows relationships
that respect the laws of the Creator

spirit seeds
from the belief springs the reality
that tie seeds of knowledge and culture
together with the strand of shared history
out of respect for the laws of the Creator

the evidence is in the roots
foundation in creation
as firm as the land
and as enduring as the stars.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.

NEWS: Next book of Ritallin Poetry in the Works

This week I’ve been participating in the 2011 Network Meeting for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL). I was in Vancouver and then San Francisco participating in events related to the IIMHL meeting. I serve as Poet Laureate for the group, and wrote eight full-length poems with 10 haiku during the three days I was in San Fran. This goes along with the poems I wrote in 2007 in Ottawa, 2009 in Brisbane and 2010 in Killarney.

I received the exciting news that the IIMHL plans to fund and distribute a compilation of these poems, to be released sometime in the coming months. When the book is available I will be sure to share that information with you; in the meantime, I’m editing my poems and getting them ready for publication. When IIMHL distributes them, they will be made available for purchase in paperback form in seven countries.

Very exciting indeed!

Twenty-Three Degrees

i miss you the way lions in North American zoos miss the African savannah
it’s visceral, instinctive, primal
i wish you were here so much i’m not sure which would happen first – a hole worn into the side of my magic lamp or the flesh on my hand rubbed raw to the bone
i cannot simply manipulate digits
to cause you to pour magic into my earlobe
as easily and richly as we can when we are both
in a First World country
if we are the world then i want you to yank my axis true again
and restore the tilt that permits me an ironic view of the universe
for without you i futilely try to plough straight ahead
but in the process lose the reason for seasons
that remind me your diversity and variety is all i need
because of the way you fire my passion i want you here
to help me tip my head to the sun so the summer of my content
can burn as fiercely as the hottest July Toronto day
i wish to wrap you in my orbit and send satellites scattering
and debate with Copernicus and Galileo to determine who truly orbits whom
because your celestial body occupies all the space
my libido will ever need to observe
so stay safe my love as you travel across oceans
and traverse foreign lands as native to you as your tongue
for your mastery of my language of love causes me to
speak with fluency into your soul even when we are continents apart
and in your quiet moments of sated solitude when my muted words quench your parched longings
close your eyes and dream with me
for i am ever in your heart.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.


the whining of a single shot firework whizzing through the air
like a fly streaks on a flypast disturbing molecules in your ear canal
descends on the scales balancing tiptoes on membranes
cascades musically washes away stillness
fizzes like shaken soda stirs up the blood like a Marley tune
and then pops, goes the world up in sounds explosive
followed by the tinkling of expended kindling
flutters earthbound like ash from wildfires carried
on a breeze to tickle nostrils with the faint memory
of reverie packaged in a tiny, barely controlled bomb.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.

Rare Type of Clarity

plant steps upon the sandy shorelines of indignation
set forth upon a mission to ply churning waters clawing at the beach
drink deep the scent of saline antiquity captured as sea salt
and think about the moments when you achieved a rare type of clarity
that made you think about everything and nothing in the stroke of an oar
as the rushing cacophony of sound and silence swamps your senses
like sonic remembrance cradled cloyingly in a conch

turbulence is rocking the plane of our consciousness
loft vexing inconsistency into ocean depths
that yawn before the disaffected like a ravenous feline hunter
the fangs of my biting commentary tear at flesh
to yank people clamouring to the cliff’s edge of temporal distraction
back onto the uneven stones of iniquitous reality

this rare type of clarity
imprints black ink onto barren canvas
the way the pad of a character on a creaky old typewriter
leaves a mark set to go throughout human existence
on a sprint across distances mere feet cannot trace

such movement anticipates docility
and skips through weeds of mediocrity
to strike the gong ending the show that animates us
like racist Disney flicks
adds flavours like Baskin Robbins
to a diversity no one in charge wishes to keep
lest the blend create a mixture that can’t coat the walls
of their comfort zones
the brushes used to paint over troubles
slash whitewall like the crack of co-opted
cat o’ nine tails striking back against past oppressions

the winds have re-formed the masses
that landed here then slid against each other like tectonic plates
until the earthquake of hatred wrought damage so deep
the very shape of our existence was altered irreparably
seismic trembling shakes the foundation of oppression to its core
violently tears vessels open like belching slavers
and that which seeps forward shall soon cover the whole earth
fear of this marauding migration inevitably
scares power to silence
but also sparks such rapid locomotion of entitled self-interest
power becomes an irresistible force
that, when it strikes the immovable object
of the wrath of defiled and bloodied dark masses
the impact bathes all peoples and their lands in plasma
Macbeth-like in its unrelenting permanence

there are those who question why the wrathful
cannot simply accept defeat, while the wrathful see
the destruction of those people simply as collateral damage
in the ultimate subjugation of those
who in the past wielded the staff and sceptres
of racial domination

and as the freedom sands my people tread
at the edge of watery consciousness
are fortified through the action of flowing anger
the rare type of clarity i achieved through
inhaling the reality of my social and racial inheritance
ensures exhalations of my mouth burn like salt
ground into wounds of the overthrown.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2010. All rights reserved.

When I’m Wrong

i’m on a rollercoaster ride without rails or cars
in a box without wheels
in a jail without bars
screaming downward at high speed without a breath to draw
exhale my painful history
scrape at my sores ‘til they’re raw
the friction burns until the blood inside my heart runs free
only you can staunch the flow
that pours from deep within me
the scars and bruises on my skin are from a life lived strong
i want to share that life with you
i can admit when i’m wrong

together we can free each other from the traps we’ve laid
release the jaws around our ankles
fix mistakes we’ve made
shift from neutral into gear and move ahead with torque
clutch new balance in our lives
and pick new ways at the fork
the road less travelled might reveal emotions we both fear
so make it click and get a grip
for down this road i steer
but if emergency arises i will yank on the brake
avert a crash that harms our souls
burn up the tires in our wake

the only way that this can work is if we lock all the doors
wind up the windows to the top
and mute the sound from outdoors
because the manual we follow isn’t stored in the dash
for quick and easy reference
we can pull out in a flash
in this moment when the power gets switched off by the key
the only light that really matters
is the one within me
and for the final time i’ll shine it for you hoping you see
another may declare his love
but not to this degree

for as this rollercoaster ride releases me from your box
the locks have opened and revealed
how opportunity knocks
it screams my name and hopes against all odds to catch my eye
it sees my painful history
and salves my wounds as i cry
the friction’s gone and been replaced by gentle ties of trust
and in this way i’ve come to know
to move ahead ‘cause i must
the scars and bruises on my soul are from a life lived strong
i want to share that life with you –
i can admit when i’m wrong.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2010. All rights reserved.

The Voice Within

i am Black
my stigma is in my skin
it’s visible to everyone
no matter how i look within
i live with it every day
and concealment is not a choice
i have available to help me
when i choose to raise my voice

Black is beautiful
that’s how i feel about my skin
a beauty seen by everyone
no matter how i feel within
i think about it every day
and it appears i have no choice
but to have others react to it
when with pride i raise my voice

Black is dangerous
that’s how others feel about my skin
a menacing threat to everyone
because of my rage within
i fret about it every day
for it appears i have no choice
but to generate a fear response
when i loudly raise my voice

i was born Black
my identity in my skin
unchangeable to everyone
from without and from within
defines my treatment every day
and leaves me with no choice
except to defend my rights with vigour
and that’s why i raise my voice

i have been depressed
the stigma breaks my heart
invisible to all but me –
the stress this truth imparts
i live with it every day
conceal this truth by choice
this poem my first admission out loud
when i’ve chosen to raise my voice

i am beautiful
that’s how i feel about my heart
even if it’s not the first thing you see
when my inner anxieties start
i think about it every day
but only sometimes have a choice
of when my truth will be expressed
when i choose to raise my voice

the mentally ill are dangerous
so others say about mind and heart
a menacing threat to everyone
just wait for the rage to start
we fret about this every day
others believe there is no choice
but to focus on their own fear response
when i loudly raise my voice

we are born as we are
our identities in our hearts
unchangeable to everyone
even as psychosis starts
defines my treatment every day
and leaves me little choice
except to defend all rights with vigour
and that’s why i raise my voice

both stigmas are real
in the skin, mind, soul and heart
we dispel these dangerous assumptions
when understanding compassion starts
they live among us every day
i am one – so i have no choice
but to ask you to speak our truths with me
with a single, deafening voice.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.


sleep never comes easily
but when it arrives it swallows me whole
struggles to choke me down
but once fully digested i always feel full
for when i drift away peace settles my soul
like cessation of a contentious battle
and ends any confusion and stress
with a wave of a serene hand

that night my companion
held me warm as i lay snuggled
into the folds of a blanket
divine in origin and purpose
even breaths inhaled stillness
and exhaled the mania of the day
while the night passed slowly
through the crucible of time

and when i awoke the next morning
to the sound of a shrieking train horn
i shook off the scales of imbalance
to claim a new equilibrium
in the world of the alert
stretched my arms as if to reach
for heaven and embrace the new day

and to be completely honest
you were the first thing on my mind
i wondered what light found you
in the gentle stirrings of the morn
to shine in and provide a bit
of encouragement to face your day

and i just wanted you to know
that as dawn shifts through day and dusk
you are on my heart

this is a day God gave us to be alive
and i hope these words
scribbled hastily
as i emerged from slumber
will find your heart too
and cause it to be glad.

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