Stephen Mead | Poems

The Value of Being There

(For my mother, Marie)

is the quiet of this skin & I at last not too busy
to sit here, to be aware, while my mother becomes
not history, just, but another part of the future
the soul of my voice, in thought, will daily find
bright as struck tuning forks, just invisible
at either side, as this hull-ceiling is a smoke screen,
kaleidoscopic, for all the projections of love
baring memory’s scenery, telling us just what
she’d say, exactly how she’d look,
not just how mom is now to us,
paraffin-yellow with stillness absolute
absolving wrinkles of a lifetime’s effort
from the suffering of her flesh.

No, out of this blue comes deliverance as legacy,
the infinite conversation of our constant
familial contact accepting trust into the turf
of belief enough.


Diamond-hard shines your tenderness,
heart-pure the eyes of headlines lived
in touch itself.

Happiness gives the best compassion
after suffering much.

I know this in the hirsute, the fibrous roots
& the innocence naked from experiencing wisdom.

God, the mountains learned there, & the valleys,
& the deserts, such oceanic landscapes of leveling might.

Bottom touches top
like sap from the core tapped & trickling——
A storm in each stream & our tree faces, enduring.

Love, come with your memory
as I come with mine.


Not sheep these, though as easily counted by, before sleep –
memory’s surprise – coriander, nutmeg, marjoram, clove & mace…
Spices lining my childhood’s kitchen, little illustrations for each
on the border’s contact paper between that paint of drab olive
& sallow-yolk anxiety brightened.

Now, how it is just sunny, reaching through years
even to this dark night my pillow forgets
as the bed starts sailing.

Such shores to be set on, breeze blowing subtly
as the printed curtain’s breath over a shelf of plants
& polished canisters holding the ingredients of family meals
in a place one time called home.

I could bathe in those recipes, the handwritten handed-down
water-solvent as the love in gratitude’s chant every morning
as mineral liquid crystals, skin-misted, grants the face radiance.

Light too is memory’s rice tossed over church steps
for my parent’s wedding in progression:
that tuxedo carnation, that bouquet’s rose
& traveling veil…

Could life be, after all, such gossamer finding itself
transparent to wallpaper, spice by spice, decades on?

If so then no wonder this night’s crazy fit of laughter
wanders champagne-heady in the stars crazy waltz.

Yes, if so, then superimposed too, as glass-sheer,
as agile, maybe pleasure’s comfort shall find me moored
& at last able to rest well.


This is not the definition but it makes more sense visually
here in another New York March, the season of mud,
& where it’s rural see everything melting, heading downhill,
each glistening trickle which might become a gush
through thawing grass stubs, the slush of twigs & leaves,
wet crevice by crevice welling for footprints, paws, hooves,
all passing life forms foraging a heat source,
a sweated steam breathing, sluice by sluice,
filtering through with the clean green of spring.

Picture nature this way, as it should be
to awaken hibernated bones back to a freshness,
a chance for re-beginning except now, weeks in,
there is pink haze, dusty Canadian sent dusk at midday
where burning forests choke the wild, smoking dry as coughs
& where is rain to bring a sheen of lightness
before the real sun pours its honey?

Daily, climate change states that every morning,
for the thinking & feeling, is now an existential question,
& what philosophy, that, should molecules mix with micro-plastics
in a Rapture of bleach bottle hybrids rising, waving goodbye
through our skies?

Riddle us an answer for this, please,
should we each now be a nobody who has a thing to do
with fossil fuel catastrophes & the horizon actually is
all those preteen angst dreams of flames like curtains,
simultaneous, stage left & stage right, closing over
the cloud-shadowed blackening center screen.

Streams pierce through this nightmare, pour down past that silvery
blue to white to turn up earth again, the maternal clay of it,
like a musician’s muscle memory holds scores of notes upon notes
in fingertips for instruments & vocal chords stretching.

Yes, come let it all thrive like suburban yards
of one-hundred-year-old peonies
& even flowering weeds with their beautiful usefulness
all cities & countries shall leave without pesticides
this time, promise, for the great annoying menagerie of insects,
the buzzing bounty of bees.


Giving away the last melon ripened
though the few on the vine may not ever…

Calling the loneliest person, listening again
to the loneliest story which never quite tells
why the loneliness is a famine no matter
how many times told…

Picking up the hitcher despite fear
& then driving ten miles
beyond the original destination…

Being more than exhausted, more than twice-bitten,
more than fed up & still finding an hour, a half,
when the lost, the blurred self may not have hope
of recognition yet strangely is wholly an identity,
wholly a face nature receives the terrain of by seeding
the “give me” one more time.

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