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A few recent poems of J.L.

Guide to Jeff Lindsay's Poems on this Page:

Ice Storm: The Transgression
Describes an experience I had one night in Appleton, Wisconsin in February 2008 after we were hit with a blanket of ice from freezing rain that morning, followed by about 8 inches of snow in the night. As I was shoveling snow on our sidewalk by our large and mostly infertile plum tree, I was amazed at the curious sound the ice-encrusted tree made in the breeze, a sound of tension and friction and crackling. And then I noticed the beauty of the clear ice on the bark and a delicate little icicle hanging from one branch. What a sweet photo that would make! But something went wrong. The experience made me ponder a few things, and I wrote it up that evening.
Beyond Reflection: If Truth...
Some truths can be difficult to grasp . . .
The Recital: A Light Touch
This poem occurred to me while sitting on the front row of a piano recital at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, when I forgot to turn off the flash on my camera as I took a picture of a performer during her performance. I shrunk and felt horrible, realizing that the act of capturing the details of a performance with a camera could change everything. Analogies from physics came to mind. . . .
Wet Wisconsin Summer
Wisconsin in 2004 had one of the wettest summers in history. Really bizarre. A couple of photos I took one morning in early June inspired this poem. The image I show is actually a composite of two photos from nearby farms, but accurately portrays what farmland has been like in many regions.
Digital Piety
"Digital Piety" has been moved to a separate page. It's pretty much a true story. A friend and I in high school memorized a bunch of digits of pi from a book with the first hundred thousand digits of pi. I took a couple photocopied pages from the book with me everywhere for a couple of weeks, and even cheated a bit during Church by focussing on that instead of more spiritual topics. We used our memorized digits it for a couple of silly stunts, miserably failing to impress girls.
Racing Toward Temptation
Written from the imagined perspective of my children. Dave Barry once observed that whenever someone is driving incredibly slowly in front of you when you're in a hurry, it will usually be an old man wearing a hat, whose cranial arteries apparently have been restricted by the tightness of the hat. This agrees with my experience. It's hard being patient....
A tribute to some soldiers facing battles closer to home.
Headlights Bright in Midnight Mountain Fog
Wish it were more uplifting or even more of a cliffhanger. And wish more people would slow down in poor visibility.
Just for fun. My wife likes it, so it's not headed for the trash yet. Full enjoyment requires a little scientific knowledge or at least some careful observations of a common phenomenon. So run to "Toys R Us" and blow about 50 cents!
A poem for Latter-day Saints only! It still won't make sense to many of them - but it's probably hopeless for others. Speculative and wild, written to a nearly nonexistent audience, with all the trappings of a totally worthless poem. Sorry - but it remains one of my favorites. (Now you know I'm warped.)
You May Wonder Why...
Less didactic than it appears, and more so. Oh, to have ears! For a friend.
A Good Reason for Flying West, Always
(Requires a fast jet that can be continually refueled in flight, I suppose.) The love poems I gave my wife before I married her were even worse. I'm lucky she said yes!
On Flocking to the New Majority
These days evil no longer needs to be disguised. Are we making progress?
Ether 3: On a Mountain
Jared's brother on the mountain - one of my favorite scenes from the ancient Book of Mormon.

Ice Storm: The Transgression

Rain this morning moistened the bark of my plum tree
Then froze and made it captive, a wonder
Glistening, completely sheathed and caught up
In this rite of winter, a garden of delight.

As the wind brushed the paired ice and wood
They tinkled and crackled with life
Like a bed of puffed rice on a churning sea of milk.
So unexpected, this call, this voice of ice against bark, -
Was it the sound of friction, or perhaps the yielding of ice
As the tree sought to bend where ice could not,
Or the squeaking of wood pressed to new forms -
I did not know, but I was curious, and listened
Until the breeze faded, and the night was still.

The ice shimmered in the streetlight, most brightly
On a limb near me, where an alien icicle grew from a whisper of ice
And flared out below, a crystal plumb-bob defining up and down,
Or a divine fruit clinging to a brittle stem.

I would return, I promised, in due time to this gift,
And bring lights, reflector, tripod, and camera
To capture this delicacy and celebrate the beauty of ice and bark.
But I must wait and first shovel this sidewalk, my duty.

I soon stopped, as the memory of the sound of crisp ice against bark
Made me curious anew: I reached back to touch, just once, to touch and feel
And stir that tingling voice of two natures moving as one.
Unthinking, hurried, a random twig - and then I heard the breaking
Of a sacred thread and the gentle crunch of a fruit falling into the snow,
A promise unkept.

(Feb. 17, 2008)

Beyond Reflection: If Truth...

If truth were not so fragile
I would thrust my hand into a mirror
And trace the contours of my face, to scan
As others can the markings of my life, and I would know more.

If truth were not so fragile
I would kneel on the dock and lean too far
Over the still pond at night, falling free into the sky
Past clouds and dreams, and know wild flight beneath the stars.

If truth were not so fragile
I would leap past the moat your eyes throw
Before me, and dare to empty my heart into yours,
Before you turn and shatter my gaze. And then you would know.

(April 12, 2004)

The Recital: A Light Touch

The offending camera flares for less than the eye's smallest flight
But then a thousand times more time is moved and bends
Away from the pianist, not immune to such parasites of light
Selfishly sucking a moment's space into the lips of a lens.

It looked flawless on film: four keys firmly down, the other hand a blur
Of possible states about to collapse upon the keys; glistening sweat
Upon my son's brow, eyes still certain, focused intent on the score
Before him, no hint of distraction at my unmeant breach of etiquette.

The lesson of Schroedinger's cat: to fathom, even as subtly as a dream,
Congeals chance and plucks from the fog one path from many forks.
Let us forbid brute observation by we who dare intrude and fix a scene
Meant to be fleeting, slurring rhythm and twisting notes into unmeant chords.

(April 23, 2004)

Photograph of Wisconsin Farmland in June 2004: Wet and Primal, Waiting for Life to Erupt Once the Waters Recede

Wet Wisconsin Summer

Wisps of mist roll like dustballs
Over the muddy knolls, tickling
The highest furrows, then sweep down
And dance miraculous across thick waters
Stirring the embryonic land beneath,
Whispering a prayer: Let there be life.

It's been a wet Wisconsin summer
They say the wettest in recorded history
(Excluding the Bible, of course).
The turf sloshes under each step
Unmowable, and rushing daily toward heaven
As if sunlight abounded, as if time were running out,
As if growing were the only sensible thing to do.

Mosquitoes blur the landscape, sucking away the outdoors.
DEET flows like beer, but nature laughs and exacts her tax.

We gather cats and dogs and retreat into our arks,
But even there, we are followed, hunted, and pierced.

Recede, waters, recede, but our prayers are still unanswered.

We could stockpile food and seal all openings
And try our floundering faith.
But with our concrete foundation
(Already leaking in one corner)
The prospects for floating look poor.

(June 19, 2004)

Racing Toward Temptation

One Sunday morning, racing to beat the opening prayer
Dad ran into temptation
(or would have had the brakes been worn).
It was his arch nemesis:
"Another old man in a hat," he growled.
The hat was always the problem: reduced blood flow
To the brain would make everything . . . go . . . slow.

We tailed a long ways before we could pass,
Close enough to see the back of his head
And stubborn tufts of hair between ears and beret
Glowing in the winter sun before him, like Moses on Sinai
Or Moses marching before the tribes, setting a pace
So slow that a few hundred miles would stretch to 40 years.
Father would never have made it as an Israelite.

He fingers softly drummed a prayer for patience on the horn,
Knowing this barrier would not fall like Jericho's walls.

During our trial on the slow and narrow path
I had time to notice new wonders: wrinkled red berries
Still clinging to an icy bush, a squirrel dancing
On a crazy twisted oak, and a sagging snowman
With sunken ice cube eyes made with too much blue
Coloring (but still shiny and crying and almost alive),
With a head still too big for its baseball cap.

I knew it would happen: We missed the first amen
But Dad got over it, and the sermon was just as good.

(June 20, 2004)


I. The Ambush

Camouflaged behind random rust and remnants of green, not unseen, not fit
For this mission, the commander prods the dread old tank toward the Target.
"This was once a Ford" is her joke. In the cluttered rear, two warriors foment
Toward battle, disputing who first touched whom. She orders both to freeze.
Two threats and a razor voice do the trick. She gathers then releases a sneeze.

Target reached: Deploy! The patrol spills out. Search and seize: cold syrup,
Tissues, and cookies. Quiet now for heaven's sake, steady, . . . almost escaped,
When the battle breaks out: a yell, a cry, a tussle, a threat, an urge to slap
Again suppressed, but now their coordinates are revealed to the enemy
Who swiftly moves in, surrounds, aims--and stares. Eight seventy-three!
Comes the hostile demand, but she is short by one forty-nine or five or four or . . .
Triage: sacrifice the medicine. A clutched bag, a rushed retreat, a squeaky door
Slammed. Back to home base. The hungry warriors volunteer silence, shaken
By a muffled sob. Perhaps if they are perfectly still, all will be well again.

II. Regrouping

Calmed, storied, tucked, nearly asleep. She gazes: Am I making gravel
Or carving Davids? The sharp dust her sculpting frees sometimes seals
Her eyes for hours: this is the friendly fire that artisan-commanders feel.
Six years and four, still too early to see the final shapings of her work.
How easy to despair and desert, but this is her enlisted service, urged
By more than duty and patriotic oaths. Strengthen her faith, ease her fear:
There will be more missions tomorrow, and the night watch will be weary.

(April 25, 2004)

Headlights Bright in Midnight Mountain Fog

Fog should know better than to shroud a void,
Cloaking the sight of what wasn't there,
Masking the line between road and air,
Casting this star to a new career,
One I'd rather avoid: meteoroid.

Who knew what fate would toss at me
Risking the mountain for home this night?
A driver first, now student pilot I glide
Wingless in thick mists: perhaps they might
Slow my velocity? No - no viscosity.

I've squealed these curves each weekend, swift,
The pull of home and a girl greater
Than the dull gravity of studies - but nature
Demands her unfair price: a crater.
For love, so little's left. (Still no lift.)

I sense it now - rock-solid matter
Ending the void, my final bound.
And when the wheels at last have ground
To a halt, how long 'til I am found
Being shrouded in such weather? Fog should know better.

(Oct. 24, 2000)

Poem Title: Chromatic
Purse your lips and ease a whisper out
Just so, to ventilate the lens.

Let it swell and pulse, to bear
Like roe, a hundred little spheres,
Before expiring, the tension snapping off
The thin, wet life from its frame,
A socket suddenly skeletal.

New vessels flow, coasting
On every current's whim.
The rainbows swirl, brighten, dim
Then thin to deathly gray
And wink good night, a silent snap.

Close your eyes, still.
You can almost hear chimes,
Chromatic, before each bubble pops.

A Good Reason for Flying West, Always

The void, endless in blackness, stands.
Sparse gasps of light puff and fade, puff
and fade, and sometimes fall and die.
Bodies too small for the task of filling,
Fires too weak to warm the chilling,
Glimmers too soft to break the solid, empty sky:
Their songs, but whispers, can't calm the raging dark.

These ten thousand fruitless lights
And night's own unseen kingdom
Crumble, scatter, perish into blue
As one hot breath of morning's glory
Blasts all irrelevance away.

One body, one fire, one sweeping beam
Evicts all former dwellers,
Fills all former vacancies, and stands.
An endless dark in me - conquered.
The feeble flickers of false loves - dissolved.
And You, my endless light - may I always know your noon.


Note: This poem is based on a speculative article I read in BYU Studies about the possibility that God has access to higher physical dimensions that the three we experience. The article is Robert P. Burton and Bruce F. Webster, "Some Thoughts on Higher Dimensional Realms," BYU Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1980, pp. 281-294. Indeed, many descriptions of the manifestations of God to man in the scriptures (especially unique LDS scriptures such as the Pearl of Great Price) suddenly make sense when this possibility is considered. Just as 3-D beings could do and see many unusual things when interacting with a 2-D flatland, so it is possible that some aspects of God's power are linked to higher dimensionality. Wild, bizarre, etc., but interesting. LDS types are also referred to Romans 8:14-18 and Doctrine and Covenants 130:7-9 and 76:94; the LDS concept of the pre-mortal existence is also relevant.

From here, crouched, knees to face
We cannot see the curve of space
Or survey time's eternal loops.
Lower, closer, minute, we stoop
To grasp our present opaque plane,
And gain a truer view - in vain.

Forgotten now: the instinct to stand,
To stretch our unused legs and scan
What once was only horizon. We wait
For the day of our unfolding, a state
When time and space unspan, compress,
And scroll into a sea of glass:

Bright, endlessly visible, a sphere,
Alive with light from everywhere.

You May Wonder Why...

You may wonder why
Our broad oak, spilling
Shadows over half our yard,
Anchor to generations of
Swinging children, faithful
In sheltering our home,
Filled with promise, roots
Steady like stone, limbs
Gracious with their fruits,
Squirming with squirrels: Surely

It can spare a few leaves
But unyieldingly clings to each -
Though some are torn free
By summer's wicked winds
And hail the size of arrowheads,
None are lost without a fight
Until overflowing with stored light,
Golden, ripe: then the grasp
Is eased, released. Finished work -
And the dried skin, veined and curled
Sails and sinks to mother earth.

You may wonder why
Each leaf remains so long, held
Against earth's pull and weather's wrath.

I've seen great trees plucked bare, pruned
And leafless, but still alive to grow
And shed new leaves again, none
Indispensable. So what's the cost
Of one more leaf lost? One less
Should not be missed, but they are grasped,
Anchored with a stubborn stem
Channeling life soaked up
From steady roots, each drop a gift
From a thousand thousand cells combined
To push water against such height:

Here, where shadows learn their dance
And sugar's churned from wisps of gas,
Fuel for more slow growth
And still more leaves, each
Beautiful in form, soothing in color,
Rich in function, alive, and held,
Held like a child by the tree.

(Oct. 19, 2000)

Flocking to the New Majority:

Now no fleece hides
The rough wolf pelt
On beasts whose tongues
Can taste no guilt.

Most sheep still left
(Alas but few)
Now strive to act
As wolves do.

(Aug. 1999)

Ether 3: On a Mountain

Fractured crystals, molten
Once. Cold now, and clouded,
Carried to this holy peak.
Lacking light, a plea:
Touch these with thy fire.

Not fire - a hand, or part
Stretched out. Nails!
Molten white, his hand
Lights on each stone -
Contact - then fire-filled

And brighter than fire still.
Rivers of living light
Flow from once dead rock:
Our burial in ocean depths
Made clear, bright, a trek

That we can bear, with grace
From hands whose very nails
Give hope. I have seen and know:
This is the hand of the Lord.
And yet more waits to be seen -

What thou wilt reveal thyself unto me?

(Aug. 1999)

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Haiku for lost URLs - on my "Sorry, that URL is missing" page

"Constructs of an Unseen Fly Buzzing in the Room" - a poem by my friend, Jerry Long, a fine writer in Salt Lake City, posted on my site with his permission on Sept. 11, 2005. It's also posted on my LDS blog, Mormanity.

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See the list of Jeff Lindsay's pages.

Atlantic Monthly's List of Poetry Links. Also see the article, "Can Poetry Matter?" from the May 1991 Atlantic Monthly.

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Last Updated: March 11, 2008
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Life used to be so full of aches:
Everything would bother me.
Now it's just a piece of cake
Since my lobotomy.

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