April 6, 2020

“‘The Misfits’ Revisited,” Poetry by Stephen Mead

“‘The Misfits’ Revisited,” Poetry by Stephen Mead
“The Misfits” Revisited*
When you chased, lassoed the mustangs, 
tying hooves to necks of down 
weighed by tires heavy as trucks, 
you wrenched the galloping out of me 
till I found my rage… 
What is the spirit if not these horses 
wild first to last, these zeniths, comet- 
tailed, free as the sage, the mountains, 
the thousand miles of it? 
That is me down there in the dust. 
That is you who cannot see yourself 
for the sign of dog food dollars, 
a cowboy’s wage, the dream 
gone to blood. 
Put my blood on your fingers. 
Lick clean.  Let whiskey drown the taste. 
The taste will come back, the beleaguering  
fever and freedom here truly trotting 
beyond your ropes which shake and shake. 
Lost boy, lost cow poke, 
I will be gone from you now. 
I left when you started 
though you didn’t quite realize, 
stoking my hope on the fire 
of your kindness, that blaze 
where you just might 
change your mind. 
If you do it, do it not for me, 
mare with a foal’s faith, 
but the stallion within you, 
misfit majestic and dying breed 
in this age of the slaughterhouse. 

*(According to Hollywood legend Marilyn was not too happy with the scene her husband, Arthur Miller, wrote for her at the end of the movie, what amounted to pretty much Marilyn screaming.  I believe that was the impetus for this poem.  If you are at all interested I have also explored this piece as a poetry-art montage.) 

Ransom Note 
Our hearts were pure iron.  
our veins, running steel. 
That's why we were tender,  
why, an electric fence, currents  
pumped, sprang dynamic.  
Is energy simply theory?  
Real as color  
between us bouncing  
worlds were determined by a needle. 
How strange to now be kidnapped.  
You'd hope love itself could provide protection.  
You'd pray innocence a safeguard. The fact is  
though devoted, passionate and kind,  
when guns are brandished, brutal  
and quick, these other things  
become commonplace,  
not points, but beside the  
beside the  
life they ransomed  
with us, at all costs  
trying to get back  
sleeping on fire  
(behind the cut letters)  
the remembrance of dreams  
(& the glue which holds)

The daughter censors herself. 
Less is more between the lines no one reads. 
Switch on a radio, flick from station to station. 
Give each one a minute and how the air plays, becomes 
a cross-section summary, condensed you might say. 
That's how it is with this family, carrying enough stuff 
and only suggesting what it takes to do so. 
After her stroke, Aunt grace, rendered speechless, 
mainly watched television, her tiger eyes blazing. 
It was guesswork for everyone, the feelings her gaze  
registered to this tribe of minced words. 
Use phrases like shields, deflect all that goes without saying: 
attachment, emotional baggage, stringy love.  Seems callous 
to mention so it isn't mentioned how affection can smother  
by accident what it will only accept on conditional terms: 
the ideals, roles others choose. 
They just want you to be happy, simply what's best. 
Yes, like a child who cherishes his pet so much he fences, tethers, 
then calls it ungrateful when the thing snaps at the leash. 
Sorry, that just slipped out.  The daughter too frets 
for her loved ones welfare which is why, a paleontologist 
now caressing the fossils, that astonishing legacy, she must free them, 
ask them to see the ancestral product she is the seed of 
and be nourishing, promise. 
She/them, the road's rough for both, and so silently knowing such 
they are again committed, all gentle plucky pigeons 
to the same bond secrecy breeds. 

Sleep in the Surreal Age 
Even during war  
somewhere meals are prepared  
and laundry gets done.  
Consider our ancestry.  
Our relations would be beaten for even  
mentioning the needs  
we whine about.  
Are we living within stone, echoes  
pounding contained and wanting to come  
out as sculpture? Look, these are spikes  
trying to pierce through the horizon.  
Perhaps you'd better settle for a mural,  
paint a picture worth the work.  
Why struggle alone? Our walls are shared 
Some have sand bags piled  
against them, others, bodies. Also,  
in very rare instances, covering this  
barbed wire is a garden of roses. 
I touch their petals, the drowsy plush.  
They invite innocent invigoration, nature's electric energy.  
The landscape shifts, revealing windows for stars.  
On either side a breeze swirls round, suggesting reflections of light.  
How warm is that wind! 
It's a technical marvel complete with the best  
heat coils.  
A week ago tomorrow we'll have slept  
as lovers in the future's hold of that past.  
It's a shame we now lie down to the sound of bulldozers and chain saws. 
Oh well, turn up your old radio. Isn't it  
a godsend we still have one? 
Maybe the commercials will have something better for insomnia.

Take Me with You when You Go 
Some breeze blew papers thrown from a high building, 
all script scattered, nothing but textured air. 
Is this the place where a new chapter starts? 
Darkness inspires light, tunnels, roots through. 
Discover makeshift doorways, loosen, let go----- 
It’s impossible, want, a presence, a pulse clings 
disappeared by the government. 
Where did they take…? 
Why couldn’t I…? 
After all, we’re a set, testaments, encyclopedias, 
our histories combine. 
Let it strum: 
Long-distance, waves, bells, telegrams, deliverance 
imagined as a letter, breath-measured, soft, skillful as hands 
that assassinate, leave us a nation half-dumb. 
Then use muteness, obscurity, take space, exile, desire, 
return words, lost ones, once sacred, unabridged, 
now text uncensored. 
The book’s name is dream, love. 
I do and am watched, a subversive envisioning union, 
omniscient, to escape since you cannot.


'The Misfits Revisited

Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer.  Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online.  He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall. This is his first feature in The Fictional Café.

Fictional Cafe

#horses#insomnia#poetry#ransom note#the misfits
  • Stephen Mead says:

    Thank you Jack, for your kind and supportive words. Your shot of confidence helped me to go ahead and explore this piece in a sound collage and collage-film. Stay safe and well! https://vimeo.com/458741351

  • Extraordinary poetry. Lucid, image-rich, immediate, beautiful, anguishing, bemused. Stephen Mead’s understanding of life is complemented by his curiosity about it, as in “Is energy simply theory?” I was especially moved by his first poem, inspired by the film “The Misfits,” which. is a powerful story about modern-day (ca. 1961) wild horse rustlers. It’s a pitiless look at wicked, pitiable people (at least the men) and worth a look if you haven’t seen it. The poem, after seeing it, will resound with a new richness of meaning. Keep writing, Stephen, and thank you so much for sharing your work with the Fictional Cafe community.

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