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The Book of Symbols
A chorus of stones
(eternal echoes)
the unconsoled

sacred pleasure
after virtue
the sacred and profane love machine
of human bondage

scar tissue
writing subtext

warped passages
a language older than words
the secret language of symbols

ways of seeing
(after mountains and sea)
heaven and earth
the immense journey

silence & solitude
where there is no name for art
the inheritance of loss

unfolding meaning
(passions of the mind)
possessing the secret of joy
the architecture of happiness

Created for dVerse Poets Pub FFA on spine or sorted-book poetry.

Radical Eye

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

he creates an underground black book
covert artist communication device
white, grey covers with adventurous
distribution (psst- gallery goers)

‘wanna incite the subversion
of state power?’ only eleven years
in prison – hooligan tactics to
counter sanctioned criminal acts

Sichuan earthquake topples tofu construction
in a cover up of her seven happy years
child victims dismembered by indifference
mauled and devalued into a state secret
making mourning subversive

police beat propaganda into the skull
of a poet’s son who turns technology
against them – fuck the motherland
this revolution will be twitterized

in Beijing, Mao Chow the cat opens a door
but never closes it behind him
slinking through a surveillance state
exhibiting an uncooperative attitude

a ghost passes him on the street
whispering the names of children
in an act of remembrance

Sun Feast

Jade werejaguar mask of the Olmecs

Jade werejaguar mask of the Olmecs

mercurial volcanic ash
disintegrates the constructs
of permanence,
scarring the landscape

wind collides with the world tree
marking the cardinal directions
we are shaken about
beaten by life and one another

untethered from identity
in the borderlands of cyberspace
I became a shape shifting supernatural,
an apparitional avatar

arboreal hunter, spirit guide,
constellations imprinted upon my pelage
I prowl the numinous threshold
to the home of the spirits

ravens guard the branches
draw the edges of death
scream warnings and watch me
bloody my pelt on thorns

wounds of my animal form
create caves to the underworld
I am wise and foolish, powerful and weak
never capable of being otherwise

psychic scars form the light
witnessed through the veil
I reveal my ancestors and progeny
my dream time chameleonic nature

jungle dwelling dangers
find exorcism in expression
liberate my vulnerability
inspire your intentions

you coax me from the treetops
dispel my debt of gratitude
salve my Godsmitten paw
unite us in shamanic ecstasy

Jaguar (public domain)

Jaguar (public domain)

Less Intense: Equally Effective?

mixed media visual journal by Anna Chamberlain (sticker is from a Listerine bottle)

mixed media visual journal by Anna Chamberlain (sticker is from a Listerine bottle)

my depth of processing
a sensitivity to subtle stimuli
creates emotional reactivity

being overly aroused -
not as fun as it sounds -
contributes to my
vastly nuanced nature

an innate trait
hardwired into my
nervous system
makes me different
I live in a CAPITAL
letter world

full of bright lights and loud noises
a shock and awe campaign
against my nerves
a life of too much stimulation

I need time alone
to recuperate from this
strongly empathetic,
intuitive existence
this overactive conscientiousness

introversion encounters
my complex inner life
I’m moved immensely
by music and art
these creative gifts
of my active imagination

I chastise myself:
don’t cry at road kill
feel love with casualness
develop thicker skin
focus less on others

I engage my copings strategies:
overachieving (an understatement)
because I don’t want to be criticized
walking on eggshells (tightrope)
because I am deeply affected by your moods
project a veneer of self-assurance (pretending)
because I want to be like you

yet I cannot be other than I am
so this intense, responsive,
(highly sensitive person)
will have to become empowered
by naming this state of being,
become emboldened by its truth

If you’d like to take a psychologically valid self-test to see if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) you may do so here.

Transmission Lost

Fallen Angel by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1981

Fallen Angel by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1981

Music by David Chamberlain, Jr., poetry by Anna Chamberlain, and the lyric ‘all we ever wanted to say was chased erased and then blown away’ is from the Janelle Monae song, Many Moons. Hit play above, this is a spoken word piece.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

I speak now to the audience in your head
not the voice that reads this line
(nor the voice that speaks alongside it)
but instead to the part of you
that observes the voice,
(hush now)
watch the unfolding theater:

here is an excursion of the artist into war
from the safety of the mind’s constructs
(you will not have to take a stance)
so you, the observer,
have assurances
double indemnity

Pina choreographs the performers
writhing masterfully among the corpses
wrap flesh around their toes
to raise on point

upon a beach invaded
by the long dead
(whale song)
marching to the sacred shrine
(come away)
the listening shores rebound

hand-held spotlight illuminates
an iron triangle against the
politics of a graffiti sky
jagged edges slice the dancers
(to operatic pleas)

she stands alone
undulating arms
(come away)
frenetic, kinetic shapes
haunt in liminal space
consume your ideas,
bury your children

confront the psychology of obstacles
strewn across a room within a world,
a café, a memory, a drama
(inextricable motion)
painting your psyche,
(behind the fourth wall)

bid the virtues,
bid the graces
daughters of art

cry your overflowing river of dust
a rite of spring granting muddied feet
to reclaim the earth of this stage

incursions into our perspectives
wormholes to exquisite pain
(as I write to you)
of this excursion
of the artist
into war

we close the door (castaways)
seaweed tossed by the storm
mimicking the dance
emotive intensity whirls
in the roar

violent intent permeates Nature,
from whom we learn not
seeing with closed eyes

you hear my voice, your voice,
the observer draws horrific pictures
for your inner sight
you travel, exploring this interior
view of war

at a remove that fans out
like a house of mirrors
dancers mime





Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch 1940-2009

Depth of Field

Public domain

Public domain

resurrected starlight invents cinema
erotic imagination projections
on larger than life screens

mimetic art form
redefining life
and its observation

illusion of motion
cut scene magic
within the festival of lights

beacon of ideas
revolutionizing societies
auteurs of phantom rides

ghost images to
ignite ethical compassion
unveil humanity

close up transitions
create natural intimacy
resonate with voyeurs

audience insights blooming
with the actor’s realization
wide eyed neo-language

its adepts infusing images
with eros, editing the story,
expanding the possible

in a radius defined by aperture
limited and standardized by
35 millimeter film gauge

establishing shots for a new history
intercuts surpassing theater
fragmented space of interiority

conceptual leaps create
sublime, psychological enigmas
human counterparts enacting

the lifecycle of stars
nebulas, supernovas, and black holes,
hype, fame and tragedy

grace, luxury, and sexual tension
in rapturous movie palaces
atmospheric colors heightening

glamour birthed by shape-shifting
purveyors of fantasies,
Hollywood lawbreakers

studio sets creating reality
scrubbing the world clean
of the marginalized

contrasted by dissidents slicing
an eye, a suggestive sea urchin
burning in lava flows of psychosis

yet its legacy lies instead
in the fundamentally humanizing
activity of poetic arcs:

in desperation a young girl
ties leaves to branches to save her sister
from a death foretold when they fall

an intruder stumbles upon an
abused wife, humbling the husband
and helps her fractured self become whole

a bereaved mother cannot
bear the sight of a family of mice
killed by the neighbor’s cat

as an orchestra must disband
its cellist becomes an undertaker,
Shinto ritual bearer for the dead

a grieving widower travels across
the world to engage
Butoh and finds peace

angels bear witness to the trials
of the living, recording their lives until one
becomes mortal from an abundance of love

an aging couple visiting their grown children
find them too busy, leaving their wellbeing
in the hands of a widowed daughter-in-law

through the poetry of these films,
drifting pictures, thoughts, and experiences
we arrive at the carnival of arts

light captured to illuminate our inner worlds
showing us how to love, mourn, and grow,
to spin art from the raw materials of our lives


she turns the emperor on his head
as the sun penetrates the forest canopy
I listen for the sounds
wild reparations offered for all the blood

scanning for (in situ) signs of life
a heartbeat pumping in searing words
brazenly on a hot pressed page
wood transmuted, only resurrected with her name

surface so smooth that everything slides
liquid nitrogen cooled tongues
slipping from cottonmouths
stained only by washes
of colorful trauma

mineral night rising, a phosphorescent outcry
burning chemical fire layer by layer
until our skin becomes as
ineffectual as the paper
she wrote the truth upon

hush imbued atmosphere descends,
a pernicious intent
poet tells me, ‘every angel is awful’
not mine, lord,
not mine

I saw her at the dawning
and in the glimmer of his oceanic love
her joy lighting candles
in the holy of holies
that day I stood in the temple
in the land of the sandsky
(where I never could have entered before)

murmuring supplications
with an apotropaic wand
against the inevitable dark

secret cinematic sounds delivered
in the tone of teenage apathy
Video Games plays in the acoustic hollow
of a phoenix’s breastbone
an echoic pleading
one skin to another

I held her in the birthing
and in the slow murder of life
in her incandescent light, her
dénouement, her breath infusing
my own, whispering paeans,
singing sighs

Notes: Every Angel is Awful is a book by the French poet, Martine Broda and Video Games is a song by Lana Del Rey.

On the Outside

I Follow the Wind by Judith Clay (used with permission)

I Follow the Wind by Judith Clay (used with permission)

(a children’s poem
inspired by the art
of Judith Clay)

I was once, you see,
a clockwork child
never understanding
all these pieces of me

Alone in a room
I couldn’t manage
to work, no matter
how many fixes I contrived
to my intricate damage

Until one day
I heard a peculiar sound
a roar and a squeak
from a lion I found

He was like me,
part whole and part wheel,
and he endeavored to see
beyond the difficulty, I feel

My trouble, he said
was staying at home in bed
wheels are for turning
and with the wind at our backs
we found our motion,
our own perfect paths

linked to Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub

Acrylic on paper 2005 Anna Chamberlain, poetry 2013

Acrylic on paper 2005 Anna Chamberlain, poetry 2013


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