Tale Older Than Time A collection of love poems by Chelsea Jackman Foreword by the poet Gift When I Opened My Heart, I Found Where the Pain Comes From It’s Electric! Ancient Love The Butterfly The Time You Left the Bed The Flower Forgiveness Honey? The Little Foxes Shot It’s Time Broken Rose Grey Breeze Pillow Talk
Foreword by the poet
~ Dear Reader, First, I would like to thank you with my whole heart for taking your time and creative energy to read my poetry. This chapbook isn’t even published yet, but already your attention to my work means the world to me. If I may impose it upon you, please take a little more time to read this essay, so that you may understand a bit about my creative process. My favorite story is that of Christine Daae and her teacher and admirer Erik, better known as the Opera Ghost. You can read their story in Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. That said, this chapbook is not intended to be a continuation or rewriting of that story. No doubt enthusiastic “Phans” of the story will find hidden Easter Eggs within my poems here. In fact, if you would like to read the following chapbook as Christine and Erik’s would-be love story, you are welcome to do so, since admittedly I modeled at least three poems after them. However, the journey I wish to take you on through the poems in this chapbook is merely inspired by Christine and Erik’s story; and, drawing on reallife personal events and experiences with quite a healthy dose of creative fiction thrown in, I hope to have created a more personal journey with elements of gravity, humor, loss, grief, time travel, the Heavenly, the supernatural, and—Yes, Mom and Dad, I admit it—sex. (No, Mom and Dad, you don’t need to worry. *wink* I hope you enjoy this poetry and are as proud of it as I am.) As I considered the poems for collection, I discovered a very clear voice in my poetry. That is, each poem is spoken by the same “speaker”—making it very easy to find a defining theme in some of the poems I had written over the semester.
I was going to focus on showcasing this new-found voice in my poetry, but when I discovered the theme so evident in several of the semester’s poems, I realized that discovering my voice was only a step towards the conception of my chapbook. I knew I wanted to use my poems to tell a love story. Several of the poems are based on one couple I had contrived in my mind; however, many of the poems can be taken as stand-alone pieces and can hold significance for many individuals in many different situations. So, while the story arc I have crafted in the poems can certainly be taken as a whole, I hope that at least one of my poems holds some personal significance for you. My playwriting professor always said, “Don’t write what you know—write what you want!” Apparently, I took that statement to heart: I am a virgin writing about sex. *grin* Moreover, I am a virgin whose parents will read my writing about sex. You can imagine how far outside my comfort zone some of this poetry is. Nonetheless, I am publishing this work, because I am proud of the poetry itself as literature. I am proud of myself for taking the chance to grow as an artist and as a person. And I am pleasantly surprised at how far I have come as a poet in one semester. When I started, I thought poetry was a Shakespearean sonnet, an Irish limerick, and a sentimental couplet. Now I have learned that a poem is not a poem by virtue of its structure and rhyme scheme alone. As long as there is one singular message from my heart to yours, words in any form can be a poem. That is why there are so many forms and structures featured in this chapbook. This has been an experiment in knowing what form best suits which thought, and while I appreciate a collection of soundly structured, metered, perfectly rhymed poems with Tennyson-like messages, not every poem is well-suited by sonnet or haiku form. Sometimes, only prose will do (believe me, I used to think “prose poetry” was an oxymoron). I soon learned that even prose can be poetic. The significance lies in the communication of a feeling from one heart to another. I hope you allow
yourself to be impacted by the feelings I present to you. I hope you can smile, laugh, yearn, grieve, and hope right along with me. If my poetry moves you in any way, then I have successfully written poetry. Nay, I have successfully created art.
Chelsea Jackman Chelsea Jackman April 2013
Gift I am a gift of life and of joy. My sister and I grow with you, escorting you over the threshold of womanhood. We are a gift of protection for your heart—as you grow to need a guard for your young and tender heart at an age of confusion and abuse, so do we grow; not to shield you from pain, but to stand as a sign of the strength of your sex. We are your towers. You are strong because you have us, and you have us because you are strong. You are Woman. My sister and I are a gift from you to your husband, the challenge of a mountain climb with the sweet reward of a fine pillow on which to rest his head. We are his lush garden, shut up by a locked gate, and he the only gatekeeper. We are his secret orchard, branches heavy with soft, juicy fruit for his sustenance and pleasure. We are Aphrodite’s temple, and you are Aphrodite. You are Woman. We two sisters give life to the son of your womb and the daughter of your blood. We feed the love from your heart to your legacy. The strength we gave you flows now through your children’s veins. We are a gift. You are the giver. You are Woman.
When I Opened My Heart, I Found a frightful mess. The pain, just a single unkind word from a boy-a monument to the power of language. Rarely the kindness from a person is more lasting that the insult. But now, however, my heart has someone to heal me.
______________________________________________________________________________ In emulation of Danielle Cadena Deulen's â€œWhen Pandora Opened Her Box, She Foundâ€?
from her 2011 collection Lovely Asunder.
Where the Pain Comes From The pain of loneliness is not an emptiness. It is a fullness of love in someoneâ€™s heart That keeps growing as minutes tick away. It presses outward on the chest, from the inside out. To have someone to pour the love into Is a need for survival. Without a soul to receive Such enormous love, the pressure becomes too much. It breaks the heart.
Itâ€™s Electric! Grab a fork. Bend down the outer two tines. Go to the nearest electrical outlet. Insert Tab A into Slot B. When the electricity first reaches your arm, it will create a tingle that instantaneously turns into a grand thump! in your body. Then, like shock waves, numbness is followed by excruciating awareness of every muscle fiber and bone and skin cell and hair standing on end. Fingertip to hand to wrist to arm to shoulder to back to neck to head to ears to eyes to belly to hips to genitals (especially those) to thighs to legs to feet to toes. Like a backdraft in a burning building, this awareness-numbness-pain-tingling feeling rushes to your heart. Your heart becomes a supercharged mass of spasming, thumping, aching flesh. In your complete loss of bodily control, your hand will have fallen off the fork handle. Your body will continue to convulse, contort, shake, and violently flop around on the floor. You may even moan. As your limbs cease flailing and your body calms down, you will realize that you have never felt more alive in your entire life. Congratulations! You have now experienced something akin to falling in love.
Ancient Love I dreamed I was with you in Paris Asleep in the shade of a tree. My hand on your chest rose and fell with your breath And the clock in the tower chimed three. Horses clopped lazily by us. A flower girl dropped a dime. A violin hummed a soft tune on the cornerâ€” The sounds of a bygone time. I awoke from my dream in a fog, Unsure of where I had been. A century had passed in the blink of an eye; But I knew I had been alive then. Somehow I am different, But somehow the same. Same heart and same soul, Different face, different name. When I saw you again the next morning And your hand took sweet hold of mine, Your touch whisked me back to that place in my dream, And the memories flooded my mind. A lifetime of memories came back, But one scene was frighteningly clear. It was you on your knees with tears on your cheeks, Saying, I love you. Please stay with me here.
I don’t know what happened back then, But I do know it didn’t end well. My life after you was full of regret, And I went through a personal Hell. A flash of your body lying still With a rose in your lifeless hands Took the breath from my chest and pulled tears from my eyes— I’d buried you with my wedding band. Somehow you are different, But somehow the same. Same heart and same soul, Different face different name. My darling? you asked with concern. I blinked, shook my head, looked around. How?—I don’t know—But I know this is true: By a deep ancient love we are bound. Ordained by the One outside Time, By His Majesty we have been blessed. A sweet second chance has been granted to us; And if you ask me, my love, this I promise— This time, my answer is yes.
The Butterfly Two petals, one stem. A bloom opens to the sky And marries a cloud.
The Time You Left the Bed Our breath had slowed a little, and the room had stopped spinning. My legs were still pressed open by the weight of your hips And my neck was tingling from the gentle suction of your lips. Our first time was all I'd hoped it would be, and I lay beneath you, grinning. And then you were gone. The icy air was shocking to my swollen, heated flesh. My whimper was met with silence, and my question with a doorlatch. My mind conjured a hundred reasons you would so quickly dispatch With me. Unsatisfied with my love? Disgusted by my taste? Wanted someone fresh? No. It is okay. I was wrong. You were just peeing.
The Flower A hummingbird landed on a white flower. He hovered above the flower, gently caressing her petals with the breeze of his beautiful wings before resting on her bloom. Oh, so gently, he dipped his head down to taste her sweet nectar, tickling her neck with his inquisitive tongue. The delicate blossom was only too happy to offer herself up to him, her face upturned to him who wished to possess her tenderly. I watched the bird kiss the flower from my bedroom window in the morning light, my hair mussed and falling from its coil as the only lingering clue of the night before.
Forgiveness The kind words you speak Wash away my guilt like a Thousand waterfalls.
Honey? You had been so patient with me the past week through long work days and longer rehearsal nights. When we were alone I was so exhausted I couldn't even keep my eyes open, and all you asked of me was to lay my head on your shoulder. You didn't even mind if I drooled. Although every morning I would swear to stay awake for you that night, by afternoon the coffee was drained and so was my resolve to do anything but sleep. The only thing you demanded of me was that I arrived home safely. A hug was just that—a hug. And a kiss was a kiss. Instead of begging me to touch you or pestering me to put out, you simply brushed my hair out of my face—my makeup-smeared face that was squished between my pillow and the back of my hand. (I don't know why you found that so attractive.) I think you even sang to me one night. You are the perfect husband. That's why I couldn't resist you when your hand gently jostled my shoulder at two o’clock this morning. Honey?
The Little Foxes A voice other than yours has been eating me alive. Heâ€™ll leave you soon, it said. He still loves her, it said. You cannot fight the past, it said. Your promises of steadfastness calmed me for a while. Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; For our vines have tender grapes. Our love is tender, and its fruits young, So easily pierced by thorns of doubt and crushed by foxes named Chaos and Confusion. Come away with me, my angel, and in secret may we love and escape the little foxes.
Shot When you didn’t come to me that night I was empty as though dead, and I’ll admit to you that I felt abandoned. The next night when you refused me, your gentleness was more unbearable than the actual lonely night. While you were away the next day, I asked my friend what could possibly be wrong. I asked her why I felt such a sense of doom and why you were suddenly dousing the flames that had kept us warm each night before. Her words shot me like a bullet through the head. She said you were considering leaving and that I must let you go. But that night as we lay naked and exhausted together, your promise brought me back to life. I’m not going anywhere.
Come to bed with me, you asked me soft and sweet. Come to bed with me and let me say goodbye. What goodbye? When will you come back to me? I’m ready to go, you said, and wiped the tear from my eye. I’m all right now, Darling. You healed me of my pain And I can go in peace. Can’t you stay another night? Can’t you stay with me and greet the dawn again? No, my dear. Heaven awaits me. I see the Light. I told you I would let you go when you had found your peace. But I cannot send you on, my love. I haven’t the strength to pray. Your love is greater than your weakness, Darling. Your love for me is Stronger than your fear. I promise we will kiss again one day. Sweet love we made, seasoned our sighs with tears divine;— Then one last time you left the bed, and whispered, It’s time.
Broken Rose In my grief, I snatched a rose from the bush. I pressed its thorns into my palms and watched the crimson blood drip from my hands as though the rose itself had melted in my grasp. My tears ran down my cheeks and fell like dewdrops on the soft red petals. In one last try to relive our bliss, I buried my nose in the bloom and breathed in until my chest hurt. Unable to feel your arms around me and your lips on my neck, I tore the blossom off the stem and hurled the stem away. Angry fingers ripped petals off the bloom and let them fall like the dreams I had built with you. Blood and petals and thorns and tears now lie on the ground around my feet, a broken rose for a broken heart.
Grey My world has faded to a blur behind a veil between this life and the life I had with you.
Breeze I felt your presence As your hand caressed my cheek. Darling I am here.
Pillow Talk Can a butterfly marry a cloud? Can an angel and human be close? Un moment, je ne sais. I will ask Him, ma petite joie. Hurry back, Lover. My body is aching for you. Iâ€™m back. He said yes. Then come â€˜ere, Angel-boy.
Credits Cover art – Photography by Ana Pontes. Deulen, Danielle Cadena. “When Pandora Opened Her Box, She Found.” Lovely Asunder. University of Arkansas Press: Fayetteville, 2011. Song of Solomon 2:15, New King James Bible. I would also like to extend my sincerest thanks to various unnamed photographers whose anonymous pictures I found on Google and Flickr.
Special Thanks Elizabeth Whiteacre, Professor of English at Ball State University. Poetry 308 classmates for all those awesome poem prompts. Syd, my officially unofficial editor and sanity preserver. Mom, Dad, family, friends, and my Jesus. Greatest fan base anyone could have. Erik, who taught me how to let go and let God.
Published on Apr 22, 2013