In darkness

Philosophy and Nonsense      
(Thoughts about writing, education, and experience.)                                    Presented by Forrest D. Poston

The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
Think, I dare you.

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there may be dreams.

Tailless Trains and Other Echoes


More distant now, the train still calls,
faint warnings and old echoes, nearly
lost across the air and age.  No clank
of wheel and track reaches, no
squeal, no vibration close in
time, or in space, rattles
windows or walls.
Naught reaches me now
but a faint and fading cry
of the passing,
tail-less train, rolling
along a steel tangent
into the dark distance,
into the night, into
the past.


The air promised rain; the scent said,
“Yes.”  The sky promised rain,
clouds that would come, darker,
laden to breaking.
The thunder promised rain,
rolling like a train, reaching
for the station,
laden to breaking.
The wind danced with the curtains,
flirting about the room,
leaving with a whisper,
“These promises
are not for you.”


Bones ache and tell of storms to come;
other aches speak of storms long past,
storms and aches of another kind, immune
to the medicine cabinet. But we are
familiar companions now, these aches,
and storms, and I. The coming storm rumbles
greetings, sends the wind with tales of power
and disaster. I smile and tell the storm of you.

To the Gray

Like childhood friends, words have moved
away. Games we played grow
into work as dragons, bears, and tigers
vanish into lairs, leaving emptiness,
a sinkhole swallowing imagination,
a black hole inhaling each idea, leaving
wonderless landscapes like the gray,
snowless winter, stripped of glistening,
barren even of the dream of Spring.
        Faces and Phases

  Primrose Moon

A younger man saw a younger moon,
more than wax and wane, a pale,
mute metaphor, grayscale
on black, watering dreams blooming
 like a field of evening primrose,
but no metaphor stops time or toll.
Perhaps even metaphors age
and wane, bloom, brown and die,
or perhaps tonight I will find
one more primrose blooming
brightly beneath this moon, this
soft, silent, waning moon.

 Harvest Moon

Even the moon burned red, so red,
surely the trees were aflame in the young
night, burning wild and fast, but no. 
Only the moon burned, coloring
sky, hills, and dreams, not with fire
but borrowed light.  Beautiful, bright
illusion, red rose the moon,
growing pale and cool with time.
The sky darkened, moon
fading to white and gray, horizon
of hills to black.  With time, we
said goodbye to the burning
moon, fading sight lost
to the night, and each other.


    The Midnight Piper

This rain fell before, on another night, the same
dark. The wet melody plays like a midnight piper,
and I follow again, this time to younger days,
to memories of dark asphalt rivers, glistening
beneath dim streetlights and flowing
 into the darkness, the mystery, the hope in the
  infinite  unseen.
So many nights, that piper lead me, promising      
 something could be found, something, never what, never
 where, always beyond sight, beyond
the curving, wet, dark veil. Each night ended
with nothing, nothing more
than unanswered questions and wet shoes.
This night, I let the piper play. Yet buried beneath
so many mundane days and nights,
the unsettled quest within resonates with the rain
and wonders. Age may bring wisdom, or merely weariness
and doubt.  Warm, dry, I smile at youth and foolish dreams,
trying hard to be sure, say, "Safe", say, "Mature",
but the piper plays, and the music in the rain
makes me wonder if perhaps I always stopped the dance 
 just a step too soon.

Memory, Dream, Reach

I have thought about the moon, reached
for memories from when the moon was more
than real, a charm or totem, always changing,
yet utterly constant, dreams made
manifest and reason to dream. Some hint
of magic might still answer, some drop of that
wonder that makes children reach, dare
to fall.  Surely there is no power
in the moon, no magic, but the memory
of a dream, might make the heart reach just
once more.  We strive in the sun
 but hope in the moonlight.

                Drink the Moon

Tonight, I’ll drink the moon, bathe 
                           in the stars, let the night soak deep,
              soothe the burns and sorrows
                          gathered in the day, ease
               away the sting of words,
                           worries, and weariness.
              Tonight, I’ll drink the moon,
                          forget literature, love,
and loss. Dawn will demand
                         I rise, renew, risk my hope
               and heart again, but
                         tonight, I’ll drink the moon.

The Moon Stayed                                                        

The moon stayed through that night, not
for me but with me all the same, satisfying,
if foolish, perhaps because foolishness can
cure some angst, or treat the symptoms.

The moon is no companion, but the spirit
doesn’t care, the need reaches, sees,
and claims.  Sometimes, that must be
enough, enough to wait, enough to dare
sleep, to dare the dreams that wait,
and those that wait no longer.

No Intent (One Version)

Grant the moon no intent, yet
may it play upon the eye,
the heart, the mind; no dreamer but
inspiration for dreaming as words
inspire the mind to tell stories.

Grant the stars that move so slowly
no choice, their twinkling an illusion, yet
light and illusion flow to the mind,
and we yearn and reach out, but
the stars that fall, though not
stars at all, make us wish and
love, ache and fall.

Grant the moon no intent, though
cool and coy it may seem, slowly
dancing with the clouds, not
so distant as the stars, more
gentle than those that fall,
like soft words, melancholy
stories that let us dream
deeply, love slowly, ache

No Intent (Another Version)

  Grant the moon no intent- this one
  night perhaps I will dream
  a different dream beneath her light,
  dark but soft upon the skin,
  a caress of night air,
  a kiss of May fulfilling
  April’s promise.  This one night,
  this one dream speaks of summer,
  forgetting winter past, believing not
  winter to come.  This one night
  beneath this silent moon,
  I will dream a young man’s dream,
  soft grass upon the hill, a caress,
  and a kiss.

Kin to the Moon

Master of disguise, the moon changes
faces, full to a sliver, even pulls
a disappearing act.  We laugh,
cry, sing, entertained nightly.
Yet the moon always presents
but one face for our pleasure,
showing it in changing ways,
while all behind the face
stays out of sight, hidden
by the play.  Perhaps this
secret tells why we play
along, at least those kin
to the moon.

(These two poems were originally published in "Block's Magazine",
 Spring 1997.)

Muskingum Hilltop

This April air soothes, liquid
     at four in the morning,
when windows are dark,
     sidewalks empty,
and the half-grown leaves
     mutter gentle nonsense--

When the insomniac soul
     ceases treading,
But the first false dawn
     has yet to scatch
its faint pink expectations across,
     the perfectly dark horizon.

(For those interested in the process of writing poetry,
you can check my essay using drafts of "Muskingum Hilltop"
to discuss "The Poetry Process".)

Another Quest (And for those young writers who think writing ends,
I just made major changes in the line breaks and form.....
about 8 years after the poem was published.)

And dawn comes
with no revelation,
     no star, no grail,
     no waking freed from a dream;
no sleep-formed mist waits
for the sun to burn
illusion into epiphany.

The day wakes
with no recognition,
     no note of those
     who track the night
seeking one scent
of magic, one spoor
of power, one willing
god, ready to barter souls.

Night, Death, and Other Dreams          

A Call For a Father

Dawn coming soon, darkness yet holding
sway, when the phone rings.
“The doctor says you should come.”
Bags always packed, we leave
with practiced hurry.
Determined, stubborn, he wins again,
defies not merely death but doctors,
stymies tests, refutes statistics.
We have more time.
 We have two years of defiance
we love, pre-dawn calls we hate,
knowledge we fear.

But another dawn has come,
a day sunny and safe, a day
for errands run slowly, knowing
when the phone rings, it will be
no worse than a bill collector.

Ginny met me at the door.
The call had come about 2PM.
There was no more need
to hurry.

  Abandoned Dreams

We followed the familiar road, clear
and known, choosing turns
with speed and abandon,
young, certain, and immortal.
We slowed little as the road changed,
asphalt to gravel to dirt, still laughing
as day faded to night, as dirt
faded to grass. And the road ended,
rising into the unknown
into weeds and briars and a high
horizon that made no promise.

Young, uncertain, impatient, 
we left the hill untouched,
unchallenged, unknown.
Like the rusting car we passed
so often, we abandoned all
by the dead end road,
dream, daring, youth,
and parted, each
to our divergent way, each
into the arms of time, each
to our own harsh dark.

Beyond the Door

Night breathes beyond the door,
calling once more, waiting, knowing
I must come eventually, knowing mystery
and hope bring the hunger and the hunt.

And so, she breathes and laughs,
not so tender this night but tempting,
for the night is infinite, and where nothing
can be seen, all things become possible.
Sometimes hope rises not with the sun
but with the moon.

She laughs, and the hunt is on for secrets,
the secret of the grail, the door to Camelot,
the hidden end of a rainbow, the magic word,
the hope that this exhausted dawn breaks
not merely the night, not the spirit but the
hardened mind, lets in not merely light
but revelation.

Joseph M.

In the unreal hours of the night, he
is about.  Before dawn begins to whisper
and weave again the fabric, when
the merest threads hold the veil,
he is about, this ancient, gaunt, ghost
to be, draped in flannel, shuffling
in darkness without and within,
crying and croaking names no longer
within our call, except, perhaps,
in these unreal hours.

And I lay in bed, wrapping my youth
and covers about me, listening
to the past, the present, perhaps
the future, shuffle and call as
the shrunken giant roams, mind
departed, spirit trapped
in the tar pit of his body,
struggling for release.


We waited in the gray morning, knowing
that no sun would break these clouds.
We waited in the solarium, knowing
that no sun would burn this fog. 
We waited as nurses went up and down
the hall, in and out of rooms, white against
the stubborn gray, the sound of footsteps
coming and going, seeming to never stop.

This coming had always been known, though slow,
slower than any would have guessed, always
coming, always known.  The night
had brought the end of knowing
for him, the silence of the mind, waiting
only for the body to admit what was known.

The footsteps went up and down, up and down,
and stopped at the door.  Waiting ended.

Memory, Realization, and Wonder

She does not wait
upon the Mossy hillside.
The long climbs finds naught
but her name among the stones,
a reminder, slanted, low and gray.
Long it has waited; long
it will wait, but she is not
there, though, perhaps
she waits still, somewhere
other than memories, few,
faded, and fluttering along
the mist-teased edge
of an aging  mind.
She has not spoken, but
perhaps somewhere
she waits still.
She has not spoken,
but perhaps she watches
still and still.

(Here are a few very early works, mid 1980s to about 1990.)

University Cemetery, Eugene, OR

Tumbled stones loose their names
     to the wind, names
borrowed from the dead,
      given to the rock,
and gone.

Another Dawn

Purple, pink, and ignorant, dawn
     comes with no revelation. Why
should I expect it now, just because
    I feel the need?

But what comes through
     this thin incision of color  
will be a dark child,
    the cold-eyed get of innocence
and the worm, and the get
     of the worm is always
hungry, winter-hungry,
     as when spring comes late,
or not at all.

Night Breathes

Night breathes beyond
the door, not so
tender, but tempting.

We do not
satisfy one another, but
we return.

So one of us hungers,
and one of us hunts.

Acceptance (written long, long ago)

Maybe I could bleed a little, but
that never worked before. Your thirst
is well documented; who
ever sated it?

Burnt offerings are out of style,
and I've forgotten
where the altar stands.

lamb is expensive
down at the market, and
I don't believe

that god I've read about.
He seemed to like sacrifices.
I don't.

Maybe if you like me
I could bleed
just a little.

A Visit With the Romantics (also from much younger days)

     Sometimes I visit my world's
        and contemplate the fallen
bridge.  I sit, feet dangling
      in the widening abyss,
and watch unachored worlds
     drifting in the mist.

Untitled (from around 1981)

I gave myself a call
to see how I had been.
Imagine my surprise
to find there's no one in.

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Writing and Education

Autobiography Challenge

Considering Conclusions

Considering Introductions

Four Meanings of Life

Godot and the Great Pumpkin

A Major is More Minor Than
You Think

The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)

Thoughts About Picking a Major

Quick Points About Education

Quick Points About Writing

Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching

Revising Revision

Reviving Experience

Reviving Symbolism

Using an Audience


What Makes a Story True?

What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)

Why Write?

Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)

Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma

Links to Other Sites

Other Essays and Poetry

Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume

Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp
Being Like Children

Beyond the Genes (Dad)

The Blessing and the Blues

Bookin' Down Brown Street

The Cat With a Bucket List

David and the Revelation

The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)

Getting a Clue

Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone

The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices

I Believe in Capra

The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake

Roto, Rooter and the Drainy Day

Sadie on the Bridge

Trumpet Player, USDA Approved



Selected Poems

The Poetry Process

Links to Other Sites