37 posts from Silent Movies of the Spoken Tongue

Early Satori

In the full arrogance & need
of early adolescence
I challenged God to a showdown.
Oh, I had my reasons.
Born into no particular cosmology
but fated with faith,
familiar with the tales to some degree
but trusting no text,
I followed the example, if not the words,
of those with similiar curiosity.

So I climbed a big hill,
sat down, announced myself.
I said I would wait.
5 years I sat there, on & off.
Turning ever inward, a white hot spiral
turning in until I saw my skin from the inside.
Then I was looking out.
I felt my way through grass & earth.
The quieter I became, the louder everything was.
I realized that grass talks to grass
& listened in.
Trees have language,
even stones think sun-baked thoughts,
sleep, dreaming of enormous reptiles, in the earth.

Ascension To Alchemist: I

I woke up one morning
        & I knew
I was thunder & lightning.
My blood was the ghosts
    of every rattlesnake ever lived.
My eyes flashed a vicious clarity
     & knew the meaning of every dance.
I walked to the farthest waterfall
      & washed the dust of civilization
Scraped my back against the sky
       shed the skin of mankind,
Threw my bones in the river one by one
        & invisible,
         I stole the secrets of the gods.

  I laughed,
                  & they ran for the hills.

Ascension To Alchemist: II

When the time is right
I will take the world
by grace & storm.
Nobody will ever know
I've done this.
Nothing external will change.
    It is only that
I will no longer question destiny.
The three wyrd sisters will speak to me
laying aside their spinning & snipping
& stilling the shuttle in the loom
should I stop by.
   All roads go where they are going
but I will choose when & where I walk.
Whether it be deer-path, highway or open field
I will not be bound by the shoulders & gullys
that mark accepted trails.
   It is not that Mystery will cease.
She will lay down beside me.
    We will wed within.
The world in which I walk
  will walk within me.
All six senses will sing
        wild & simple tunes of pleasure
Doors will open to my gaze
             like windows.

Field Hollers of the Paleolithic

Let blues historians bicker & spit
over the origin of call & response.

I stood in a circle of fire
under the naked stars.
I called out a name to the heavens
& was not disappointed.


Down the sidewalk slowly
Scuffing feet thru fallen leaves
    I left my mark
     making sparks with the spikes
     on the bottom of my lumberjack

No one knows anymore
                            in Michigan
that loggers had lugs
          had sharp steel points
to walk surefooted on logs
                    in the river
wearing kneehigh boots they called

I bought mine cheap
         a buck apiece
two bucks total, he wanted four.
But I had a car & was miles from home
     & the boots weren't bad enough
      that I wanted them bad enough
      to pay all my gas money
       & walk away with 'em on.

        Now many months later
           the soles are bare
From striking fire & wishing it was fear.
The cement & the asphalt & concrete & stone
have worn my steel to the leather.

But a few will remember
       the jig I danced
& the blues I sang in the street
& the fire that followed
          my footsteps home
as I walked off singing
                            through shadows.
Hot rhythm
              to my
                       cool, slow

Disclosure of the Contrary

I am the broken tool,
shattered haft that will not
heft the weight.
To foil the furrow in the making
is my way.  Crooked somehow,
what is cast awry is best cast away,
or melted down for what metal remains.
To be recast is to recant, in the presence
of stronger incantations, in the will
of a stronger, better maker.
A dull blade cuts only the hand
that wields it, only what is
unintended.  The glitter of its
chrome conceals a soft heart
that will not hold an edge or be true.
Still, it is the interesting twist,
the strangely formed castoff
that may have the chance or luck,
to catch the eye from the depth of the scrap heap.
Over the coals of the forge,
under the blow of the hammer,
wedded through the arc of a weld
to some balancing support,
form & substance are reborn
a part of a larger structure.
While the smoother contour
may be soothing to the viewer,
it is the contrary that courts
our wonder.

Ornithology & Mythology, Reversed

Crow feather and someone’s cast off works
crossed against a sign,
red letters spelling:
“No parking.  No stopping.  No standing”.
I didn’t stop to ask questions,
nor did I make the sign of any other cross.
Just another junkie mojo in a dawn street—

The crows came in droves
cackling and laughing at the day break
on the Ave we used to call home.
A priesthood of carrion
reading scats and tokens
of the last night’s action
like priests reading omens,
or bookies glancing over
the morning’s handicaps.

They knew the score,
recording all the tracks and tricks
of the walking trades, trading tips
and taking bets on the inevitable
buskers’ and hustlers’ busts and burns.
It was all they ever talked about,
in the cant of thieves who keep secrets
for the sake of keeping secrets, alone.
They believed value inverse
to the number of hands
which have held a thing,
but never missed the chance
to relieve a prior owner
of his burdens.


Motherless born,
passed among a long line
of wet nurses and nannies,
Staring and sucking at a
variety of irises & a chaos of aureoles,
he formulated an inchoate image
of a shifting face of love.

Later, to escape the claustration
of his stunted and sundered carapace,
he attempted to staunch the haunch's wound,
quelling his canablistic urge
in a feast and fury of erotic film and literature.
Apocatastasis the apotheosis of his loneliness,
diffusion of purpose his only recourse.

Fixed like a cat on the question
of in or out, or in and out, or at least
the mystery of entrances and exits.

For him, breath could be drawn
only in submersion or submission.
Fear and shame gave him gills.
He found his own ways to bury
and exhume himself.

Notes Found Scrawled in the Margins of an Unpublished Roadmap

This is a way of life where I come from
and I come from a lot of places.
I come from the dawn in the first light
having walked under the moon for hours.
I come out of swamps and straggletrees.
I come out of the hearts of stones.
I come with words of the wind and sea.
There ain’t no place I don’t come from.
I been in the high roof gardens where stars
triumph over the lights of the city,
and in the mossy gutters where alcohol keeps you warm.
burning one way or another and no one’s particular.
Now, maybe I don’t come from schools
or maybe I do—what do you remember?
I come from inside
where the throat tickles, where the lungs laugh
where the air breathes out in strings of words.

Boy Heroes

Mike & I were great hunters,
cheap shamans & men of the forest
more or less.
On the day of our late summer bear hunt
we carried the ritual spear
a foot of old brown steel
on a six foot shaft of ash
once & a half our height
decorated so fiercely
with horsehair, leather strips & red clay beads.
With my 1820 cavalry saber
& his borrowed German footman's sword
two fresh-cut, wood-tip spears
lunch, & his mother's favorite kitchen knife
we set out between morning & afternoon
sounding like misplaced surf
in the leaves.

We strode in arrogant pride
thru forests we did not own
knocking dead trees to earth
& pelting down grassy hills
to show our strength.
We shouted & howled
to let the animals know we were coming
or in camaraderie with wolves long moved on
with whom we claimed a kind
of distant kinship.

In the evening, dusk
we returned with stories
but no skins, bones or meat.
Around the fire
my brother believed us
as we told him how we had caught & killed
every critter in the forest
but how we had talked with their spirits
& they were lonely, & crying
& so we sd the words we knew
to bring them back to life.

John T. Unger poet

I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

Before becoming a visual artist, I spent 15 years as a poet. I studied poetry at Interlochen Arts Academy, Naropa, Stone Circle and on the streets. I performed my work for years at Stone Circle, solo shows, poetry readings, and at Lollapalooza in 1996.

I still write poems, but only if I can make them fit the constraints ofTwitter.

Mobile: 231.584.2710 (9 to 5 PST only) | Email me

Art IS my day job

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