Sunday, July 23, 2017

Seven Times a Day


The series of poems, “Seven Times a Day,” is inspired by Psalm 119:164: “Seven times a day I praise you.” Each of the component poems is composed in tribute to the themes—somewhat loosely interpreted—of the seven hours of public prayer in the liturgy of Roman Catholic monasticism. In chronological order, the hours and their respective thematic interpretations are:

Vigils, the spirit of watchfulness;
Lauds, praise;
Terce, beginnings in the spiritual life;
Sext, patience in trials;
None, conversio mores;
Vespers, thanksgiving;
and Compline, consideration of death.

Because Jesus Christ passed away at None, the ninth hour of the day or 3:00 pm, the theme of this hour is repentance and conversion, conversio mores.

Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem (c. 1896-1902) by James Tissot


2:00 AM

No dogs bark at this hour,
Desolate as an abandoned field burnt by summer,
Forlorn as shaving curls on a workshop floor long unswept.

I hear a motorcycle roar along a distant road,
Harsher than the sound of sawing wood.

Then silence thickens like a paste sealing
Joints and crevices of a room
Gradually deafening to the slightest vibration.

The world is asleep, I am awake.
Time heaves like a resting animal.

Now is the moment to descend into stillness
Deep as darkness enfolding underground rivers,
Delicate as a tissue broken by a cough.

I am solitary as a metal tool
Seeking the warm grasp of a skillful hand.

Before the smallest beginning of a noise tears like flint into the fabric of the night,
I will take long draughts, cupping my hands in the springs of tranquility.

The world is asleep, I am awake.



Gloaming is gradually pushing night away.
Casting a magician’s spell, day sweeps
His arm in a wide arc, left to right.
The sky submits to his behest.
Darkness retreats faster than low tide pulling back its forces,
Fading until morning is a garment washed many times.

Dawn is a gray wolf’s coat streaked with white clouds.
Blue and pink light diffuse, a river entering a delta.
Moon and stars now gleam faintly, soft as kindness.
Daylight is spilling, gentle waterfall, over the window sill.

The house begins to stir, a living animal.
I hear tinkling utensils, clattering plates, sloshing glasses.
Coffee is percolating, a gurgling snorkel.
Birds let loose warbles, sinuous wrist movements of a dancer.
Clearing throats repeatedly, roosters do not understand
Only once is necessary to remind everyone day is here.

Din rises, tittering audience before a performance.
Turning squeakily, a faucet drills water into a pail.
Commuters gun their engines. Motorcycles roar, punching holes in paper.
Chaos breaks out, a bull bounding free from a maze.

Colour Study - Warm Cloud by Ken Bushe


Morning steps forward...

Morning steps forward, freshly washed, newly fed, tautly wound like a limber bow,
Ready to spring, tumble, wheel, pull at oars, throw the hammer, leap the long jump,
Slice fine fillets smoothly in water, upswept, propelled by a parachute of air,
Sling saucers aloft like pizza dough, snare them spinning on sticks, hop,
Flip bowls from foot to head, head to foot, right to left, left, right, back again.

Clouds near Newburge by Ken Bushe


I eat dry bread…

I eat dry bread in the desert:
It tastes like a cake of dust.
I breathe in and out powdery clouds:
Nostrils singe, snorting fire.
I swallow my own saliva:
Thick paste coats my inside throat.
How will I sustain my journey in this land
When my mouth is filled with sand?

I falter inside a steel kettle, sparks popping about.
Black footprints flame at the edges.
I am dried up, a gourd rattling seeds.
Heat waves deceive like the devil.
Thirsty, I lick at a mirage with my eyes.
Twisting, I glimpse the taskmaster sun.
Hands astride hips, he glares mercilessly,
Glowering white noon death rays.

The sky is livid, a clown murderer, crimson lips, grinning.
He spills sacksful of hot ash from above.
Hordes, buried alive, scratch at the insides of a wooden coffin.
Spiritless as the burning air gone lifeless,
I am dark as a moonless, starless sky,
Staggering in an expanse unbounded beyond extreme sight,
Devoid of any atom of hope,
Despair, a universe expanding endlessly. expanse unbounded beyond extreme sight...


Afternoon has lost its fierceness…

Afternoon has lost its fierceness like the death of summer grass, dry and crackling underfoot.

Dappled shadows fuse, separate, and coalesce—grayly shifting furtive forest animal.

Faintly the wind rises, gently kicking into circular motion fronds spinning in the liquid eyes of ponds.

Branches wave back and forth, swings, doors opening and closing, leaves entering and leaving.

Black asphalt roads glow, windswept dark coal fed by hot billows firing an old bronze censer.

Orange cats, writhing, lithe, play on jade grass, shiny crabs jostling, toys scattered at day’s end.

Trees, outspreading dream catcher nets, poise against the horizon, tracing graceful fractals against the sky.

Daylight reddens, crushing pink roses against white cheeks of clouds.

Weakening, the hour bathes in vermilion blooms drifting in the darkening ocean.

Threatening black outbursts, thick clouds close to shore migrate toward the sun now deepening crimson with fatigue.

Remotely, obscured by a diaphanous curtain of rain, boats fade in and out, motes on a planetary visage.

Pummeled by distant turbulence, outlying storms, swirling fists, hurl violently into a far constellation.

The Crucifixion (1457-59) by Andrea Mantegna



I love the wooden beauty of darkening afternoons
Softly varnishing the oldness of the sky,
Weathered like the brows of studious hills.

Stillness dwells in the air like a great thinker,
Pondering forgotten equations, hidden runes.
Clouds are flecked with the fires of beaten copper,
Skies limpid with the blues of pale oceans.
Shadows weave fingers through grass looms
As fields gaze blankly at the sun.
Birds grasp at the last utterances of a prayer,
Day vanishes like a broken pot.

Dusk is redolent with the aged interiors of sleeping cabinets, richly inhabited.

Evening Sky Study by Ken Bushe



Night begins in disquiet, pacing back and forth,
Disturbed by spoons crossing swords with forks
Banging on plates as against shields,
Clinking glasses like missiles pinging helmets.
Rumbling low, a water stream is drumming
An aluminum sink, bottom of a boat.

Beyond the wall, cars whoosh by like subway trains.
Passersby in threes or fours are chortling birds.
Two houses down, a woman hollers faintly at a bawling child.
Cats scrambling after prey kick boxes bumping together as they fall.

A small animal is making tiny scraping noises inside the ceiling.
The wind rises, shakes leaves, dislodging one fruit,
Thudding on the roof, bouncing twice,
Rolling audibly…one, two more follow.
The house folds his hands, sitting silently for a while.
Everything is slowing down, floating brushwood.

The clock is ticking but not on the wall. Time machine
Oscillating to a gradually disappearing frequency,
I listen for the pop of ratchet and spring pulling the hammer backward
To strike the bell once, twice, then push off, sleep pulling at the oars.

Grandfather clock face (detail)


  1. Credits - original publications:

    “2:00 AM,” This Dark Matter (January 30, 2015)

    “Prologue,” Pine+Basil, Volume 1, Issue 1, page 20

    “Morning steps forward…,” The Penmen Review (April 1, 2016)

    “I eat dry bread…,” Cecile’s Writers (August 28, 2016)

    “Afternoon has lost its fierceness…,” Journeys Along the Silk Road (Lost Tower Publications, 2015), page 49

    “Darkening Afternoons,” Boston Poetry Magazine (September 4, 2014)

    “Epilogue,” aaduna, Volume V, Issue 1 (Spring 2015)


  2. Photo credits

    “Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem” link:

    “Candle flame” link:

    “Desert” link:

    “Grandfather clock face (detail)” link:

    Courtesy of BrokenSphere


  3. Images of works of art are posted on this website according to principles of fair use, specifically, they are posted for the purposes of information, education, and especially, contemplation.