Monday, October 31, 2011

A Certain Slant of Light

Emily Dickinson was born the middle child in a prominent Amherst, Massachusetts family on December 10th 1830 and passed away on May 15, 1886. Sadly, only a smattering of her poems was published in her lifetime. The body of her work was discovered posthumously by her sister Lavina, bound in hand-stitched pamphlets. However, Emily Dickinson is considered to be one of America’s greatest poets. The mystique which surrounds her life has made her and her poetry a subject of scholarly research for decades. However, the appeal of Emily Dickinson is truly in the simplicity of her life and sincerity of which her poetry was written.

Dickinson’s poetry has a disarming innocence, a childlike quality which might even exhibit an underlying desire to remain a child. However, it is equally as disciplined as her childhood was. Her verses, although eccentric are quite structured; her punctuations, although perplexing are consistent. However, her imagery is soft yet vivid, her words are gentle yet profound, and her rhyme and meter are lyrical yet arrhythmic. Consequently, this it is an example of how a child might write. Moreover, it’s better example of how Emily might have written were she still a child.

As a child, Emily’s bedroom window overlooked the West Street Cemetery. This may well be where she first became fixated with death. In any case, at the age of fourteen, she was traumatized by the death of a second cousin. She fell into a severe state of melancholia and was sent to stay with family in Boston to recover. Merely a year later, at the age of fifteen Emily attended a religious revival and professed to having been profoundly moved by the experience. However, the spiritual revitalization didn’t last. She only attended church for a few years and never declared her faith formally.

Nevertheless, Emily Dickinson is often considered to be a transcendental poet, even a spiritually-devout poet. However, her themes are often agnostic in nature and she frequently explores the existence of a higher power and the mystery of the afterlife. As a result, her poetry often delves into the aptitude of Death itself. Although the ideal of this might strike some as frightening, she does no more than exemplify my own reservations. However, the tone of which Dickinson examines mortality is somewhat anesthetic, if not even peaceful. To that effect, I find her expositions of death and the afterlife quite comforting.

Even though a poem like “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” might send chills up your spine, there is something serene about the way the poet accepts Death. When I read “I Died for Beauty, but was Scarce” I am comforted by the thought that whatever loneliness I may feel now won’t be compounded in the afterlife. Might the poem “My life closed twice before its close” fill me with a tenderness of despair, “A Certain Slant of Light” fills me with the exhilaration of hope by using the beauty of nature. Consequently, I want to believe that there is something more beyond this mortal coil.

Emily Dickinson has often been described as a heartbroken introvert, possibly suffering from agoraphobia, or simply an ascetic. Regardless, her poetry radiates with sensitivity and honesty and has a vulnerability which much of the poetry of the time and even the present day lacks. For whatever reason she chose to seek solace in solitude, there is no harm in being human. She might have been anxiously aware of her mortality—so am I. She might have been contemplative about the existence of God—so am I. However, the one thing Emily Dickinson’s poetry does more than anything else—is give me hope.

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apricot Standing in Red Wine

She lay wrapped–in that soft-white blanket,
imagining how warm it would be–her back against his chest,
their bodies curved around each other.
She has this addicting idea that his thumbs will fit perfectly
into the groove of her hips–his breath on her neck.
She leads him, by the hand, to her bedroom,
quietly lets him undress her. She promises to be quiet.
To be quiet enough–that no one will hear
her–naked soul.

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011


What is the price of godliness
Save the seduction of a slow bullet burrowing beneath the skin
Loose the cold steel upon the rails of veins; unbridle the ether to make a bed
of a tongue, and abandon oneself to fleeting eternity
Milk the blood might that it raze the pain on a higher level consciousness
and walk amongst giants, savoring the taste of immortality
for you cannot kill the one who forfeits

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2007

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Diner

Dressed in her Sunday’s best, she sat alone next to the window watching the sun climb over the whitening tops of the snow-laden trees. The morning light drew back the lines in her face, and her skin was delicate and translucent. For a moment she is a vision of the woman she used to be, and yet when she bowed her head in prayer, the shadows marked the trials of her years. Smoothing out a wrinkle in her pastel-blue skirt, she laid a paper napkin neatly in her lap. Then clasping the cup of tea in front of her with both hands, she carefully lifted it to her lips and sipped at it gently. She smiled quietly at the room around her.

The waitress was sitting anxiously at the counter preparing menus for the Sunday rush, and the bus boy was joking with the cook through the serving window. In the back booth, two disgruntled farmers were discussing the precarious condition of the winter wheat over a neglected short-stack and two black coffees. The front door chimed and a middle-aged couple walked in followed by a brisk wind. The man was carrying a paper under one arm as his wife, still clutching a church bulletin, clung to his other for warmth. They stamped the mud from their galoshes onto the entry mat and shook the chill from their shoulders.

“Good morning John. Dorothy,” said the waitress standing up. “Will you be having coffee this morning?” She snatched the pot from the burner. “Yes, I do believe we will Patricia,” the man replied. “Thank you.” As the diner started to fill with the after-church crowd, the couple removed their coats and made their way to their regular table. The waitress motioned to the bus boy to let the cook alone and then moved quickly up the next aisle with coffee and menus so that she could greet them at their table. “As you know, we’re still serving breakfast,” she said, getting to the table first. “But I have the lunch specials made out and on the menu.”

“Why, good morning Edna,” said the man, stopping to greet the old woman. “You’re looking awfully fashionable this morning.”

The woman looked up at him blankly, and then smiled brightly. “Yes–yes it is a beautiful day.” She paused and looked out the window. “Yes it is, isn’t it?”

Trying to be patient, the waitress stood at their table, menus in place and pen poised to take their order. Looking out across the room she saw the tables were filling up quickly. “We have the hot roast beef on special today, John.” She prompted. “It comes with a vegetable and a salad of course,” she continued. “And we have pecan pie, fresh from the bakery only yesterday.” The man looked over at the waitress, dropped his eyes and looked back at the old woman. “Yes–yes it is a beautiful day, Edna.” He smiled. “How have you been? We haven’t seen you in church in quite some time.”

“Yes, it is quite smart isn’t it?” She smiled, brushing down her collar. “This is my Easter dress. I wear it every Easter Sunday.”

“Yes, as I was saying, you look quite becoming.”

“Yes,” she said softly. “It is, isn’t it?”

Her eyes wandered away from the man and she turned her attention to the window. The pear trees in her grandfather’s orchard were white with blossoms, and her laughter echoed kindly through their limbs as she ran barefoot through the garden of her youth. The morning light drew back the lines in her face. Her skin was delicate and translucent. For a moment she was a vision of the woman she used to be, and yet when she bowed her head in prayer, the shadows marked the trials of her years. Clasping the cup of tea in front of her with both hands, she lifted it to her lips and sipped at it gently.

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Is it not the radiance of the dawn
which stings my weary eyes,
but the passing of yester-eve’s touch
that I tremble like the leaves
with light

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Is it no more than the years
which have seduced me with this beautiful regret
that I am the rose dying on its vine
Memories fall like petals to the ground—lifeless and spent
like the very hope of which
I was born

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Love and Death

I find my blessings where they are
Lost in the reverberating laughter of my childhood
and hidden in the quiet moments when I held you in my arms.
And yet as fate scatters these fortunes to the wind
I have yet to find the strength to say

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The more I look—the more you are not there
And thus my heart is cracked by the weight of its sorrow.
Forgive me that I have found it easier to cry
Than to weep

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Wrestling with redundancy, he finally finds himself at the edge of night. This is where he tries to hold on to beauty. Sitting down before the typewriter, the blood drips hungrily from his fingertips and he recalls a whisper which once caressed his ear—someday you’re going to miss me. It sits sullenly on his thoughts as he rolls back the recollection, for the memory haunts him with metaphor. Thus he sharpens his wit, threads a piece of paper noisily into the carriage, and begins to type slowly, delicately—deliberately. The room is filled with the repetitive sound of typebars striking the virtue of the paper as the ribbon flows with his thoughts. Suddenly, the phone rings obtrusively from the desktop.

His fingers are poised in predicament. He looks down at the Motorola as is skitters across the desk clamoring for attention. Go away. With each ring, the cigarette ash dances gleefully on the desktop. Go away, damn you. He tries to focus on the task at hand. Nevertheless, the LCD flashes like a migraine in the corner of his eye. Despite all his efforts to ignore the intrusion, it teeters on the brink of his sanity. God damn it! He snatches the phone up abruptly before it skirts capriciously off the edge of the desk. “Hello Charles,” the voice says familiarly. “I just wanted to remind you—she is with me now. Her kisses are slow, her breasts are soft, and her thighs are warm and inviting—she is mine!”

The machine rings with the margin, and stripping the paper from the carriage, he sits back in the chair and reviews his thoughts. He notices the Motorola sitting silently and undisturbed on the desktop, the LCD is dark and lifeless. Picking up the phone, he examines the dark infinity of the display as if searching for something. It had been quite some time since anyone had actually called him; he wasn’t even sure why he kept the cell service. Flipping the phone open, he browses to the contact list and scrolls down until he has highlighted a particular name. He pauses momentarily as the melancholy sinks in, and once again his thoughts roll back with haunting recollection.

“Hey,” she says softly. “Hey, what are you doing up so late, it’s after two in the morning,” he asks trying to juggle the conversation with the post he is working on. “I can’t sleep—I’m scared.” He recognizes the anxiety in her voice and gives her his undecided attention, “Scared? Honey, what are you scared of?” “Dying,” she states matter-of-factly. He is taken aback by her reply and stumbles over his words. “Oh—sweetheart—did you, did you take your meds?” “Yes, a couple of hours ago. They don’t seem to be working and it hurt. It hurts so much,” her voice trembles. He searches for an appropriate response, and yet he is overcome with helplessness “I’m scared—tell me a story.”

“Tell me a story.” The words echo through his mind. Snapping the phone shut, he sets it gingerly back on the desktop trying to distance himself from the reality. “She is with me now—she is mine!” Having almost forgotten the page in hand, he turns his attention back to it with a pang of sentimentality. Placing it beneath a stack of other neatly-kept memoirs he thinks to himself—no, she is with me. Threading another piece of paper noisily into the carriage, he begins to type delicately, but deliberately. I will tell you a story. I will wax you poetry—about life and love and loss and living. The room fills once again with the sound of typebars striking paper as the ribbon flows with his thoughts.

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011


When the night has gone still and the stars are cold
I think of you—quietly, softly, warmly.
like the kiss which floats on the fringes of my dream
and yet I am only able to ever hold you
in my heart

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The irony of my awareness, is the infinity of my consciousness
that I am trapped in a constant state of wakefulness.
Here, veiled within shadows, I am caressed by the intimacy of illusion.
The fleeting color of your kiss, the soft scent of its touch,
and the music of a voice which flows over me warm with memory.
as perception lies between the dream and the dreaming
that I am awake

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The same old sin

She used to call me “baby.”
Gliding effortlessly over to my table, she would sit on my lap
Then slowly tracing the line of my jaw with her finger
Put the warmth of her mouth to my ear and ask me to buy her a drink
I must have bought that insatiable bitch a thousand drinks
And yet here I sit, swirling the memory around in the bottom of my glass
as I grind my forsakenness into the abyss of an ashtray.
Still, watching the remnants of desire dissipate into the darkness
I tempt the brunette with a freshly creased dollar bill
She used to call me “baby.”

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011


You incorrigible fool
how easily led you were down the path of damnation
for a simple promise at the cost of your soul
And yet it was not your vanity which was your undoing
nor your pursuit for knowledge in the stars
but this loneliness which torments me in my misery
that empathy corrupted
your heart

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011


As I lie in the solitude of my bed
I hear clouds move restlessly across the night sky
Moonlight bends softly through my window
and I feel truth lurking in the shadows of my room.
I am voiceless in the presence of epiphany.
It climbs into my bed trying to comfort me with regret
caressing me with the fingertips of memory
and yet there is laughter in the promise of the sun
as it finds me cold in the solitude
Of my bed

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Kiss me
Kiss me as if it were the last time.
That I might taste the bitter sweetness of yesterday
and all the tomorrows that will never

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond the Sea

Does my comfort lie further than where the waters touch the sky
that my hope has been hindered by the reach of my eye
Are these waves upon the shore merely memories that I caress
rolling back into the sea as they are lost with its egress
The clouds along the horizon are they the dreams we once shared
or the wisps of wanderlust as they disappear into the air
And tell me what then could be this wind which combs my hair
like your fingers once did when I was holding you near
Then so I am thus moved by the recollections they would impart
that even the sun does sink with the weight of my heart
And yet as I sit within my solitude, it is surpassed by my envy
to I know he is with you, in those lands beyond
The sea

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blind Intervention

Where were you
When the darkness enveloped me?
That you left me to tread these shadows alone
As I fumble through my memories
Of light

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Scent of a Woman

Fair is the bouquet which wakens my heart
with scents fragrant of ardor and allure
For it kindles the flame of mine embers dark
that the scent of her passions are pure
Garlands thus sweet of her wine and red rose
so honeyed are my words by her flower
Might into these arms they court her repose
and on her mine adore I could shower
Like a summer’s rain stirs a garden’s scent
I am embraced by petals thus warmed
Where the caress of her flora’s fragrance
does arouse inhibitions of mine own
Hence these gardens of amour I thus aspire
to hold and be held by the scent of a

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Stolen kisses

What then is this warmth which lingers?
For it sits on my lip, trembling like a lost summer’s day
Is this how the night feels when it pales with the morning’s light?
For I am trapped in the twilight of your advance’s retreat
knowing never that temptation could taste
- So sweet

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011


he tears of the sun

As it sinks beneath the weight
Of my tasks undone

© Charles Coakley Simpson 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Here lies her lament
Deep beneath the cold-hard ground
Where the lilacs bloom

© Charles Coakley Simpson 201