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Graham Dahlke

. . . Please Excuse the Sarcasm . . .


I promise I’m not going to preach to you. I’m not made of plastic. I am flesh. Pulled from the soil. The dust. And I’ve been told that the calmest of winds move sediment over mountains. So, I promise I’m not going to preach to you. I’m tormented by riddles of my own design.

Have you read the Bible? Beginning to End, I mean? I have. Twice. The first time to embrace the beauty of it. And a second time to underline every contradiction in red ink. I had made notes of them. Every poetic phrase, every hope and hero, every story underlined with hypocrisy and false truths. It panicked me. It was then I realized that poetry contradicts our natural thought. It is a hypocrisy in and of itself.

Lot’s wife, for example. She looked back at Sodom. Turned to salt. Hell. Reeking of sulfur. A furnace. She heard the weeping and the gnashing teeth of their punishment. She had to look. Poetry. God summoning hell. Commanding it to engulf a city.

Is God the Devil? a split personality? Was that why they were told to never look back? Is that what Lot’s wife discovered in the flames? Reduced to sodium and sulfur for knowing. The stench. Poetic ways of twisting truths.

The panic has inspired me to write this. I call it Eden. It tells the story of us. God’s second attempt. He had tried before, you know? He created another world. He created flesh. Man and woman. And with that first betrayal, that first apple, the knowledge of good and evil, he was so heartbroken that he turned his back. And he started over. He created Earth. Named them Adam and Eve. And when she took her apple, he finally realized that all conscious beings would inevitably do so. But he would settle for nothing short of perfection.

So, he tinkered with us. He sent plagues to Egypt. We grew more arrogant. He set fire to cities. We learnt to extinguish them. He drowned us in flood. We built our vessels. He sent us a savior. And we sent him to the grave. He stood back, watching the Crusades of men who carried swords in one hand and his word in the other. He watched plastic men on T.V. screens rob the meek by his name. But you know how it is, as a writer. You start with an empty page. White. Pure. By the end it is all a mess. Marks where you erased a word, wrote it back in, erased it, wrote a new one, and so on. Your pencil a stump. Eraser worn down to the metal, which ripped the page here and there. Smudges from your palm dragging lead dust from left to right. The words themselves, tormenting you. Less than perfect.

God saw us. Smudged. Ripped. Less than perfect. He crumpled us up and tossed us into the cosmic wastebasket.

And he returned to the world he had abandoned. He saw how Cain and Abel, grew old together. Neither raised a hand to the other. They bore generations of decent men, pure of mind, heart, and soul. And he thought, “This is Eden as I had envisioned.”
It was forever impossible by his hand.

This panic keeps me up at night. I wonder about the seventh day. His day of rest. You have heard the saying, “Idle hands are the devils tools.” There’s a biblical credence to that, of course. And I wonder what God did on that seventh day. I truly believe that it meant everything. One day overlooked for centuries. Genesis itself does not elaborate. It is just this: “and on the seventh day, he rested.” And I have never heard anything so poetic.


Never speak in cliches.
They are a convenient way of stating things we do not fully understand.
We are a lazy people.
This makes are words that much more devastating.

A Drunk Man’s Dilemma

I stumble drunkenly down the street without any idea as to where I may be, though I have narrowed it down to somewhere between 85th Avenue and Jonesboro, Arkansas. I am in desperate need of a restroom and am seriously contemplating whether or not I should relieve myself on the lamp post just ahead - when I am drunk I always over think things. The lamp post turns out to be a middle aged woman waiting for the bus. Luckily for her, the sensation passes momentarily as I walk by.

By chance I come across my friend Ralph Thompson’s house. I knock on the door and cry violently until he answers. I am immediately led to the washroom. I can tell he is upset. I have shown up drunk on his doorstep before. After a brief snooze in his toilet bowl, I emerge from the washroom to apologize. However when I see my dear friend Ralph standing over me irate, I break down. I confess to him my love for fine upholstery, my failing marriage and how I suspect my wife will leave me for a man with larger earlobes. Sobbing into his polyester couch, I come to a grand realization.

This is not Ralph’s house. I don’t have a friend named Ralph. I have mistakenly wandered into a Lawyer’s office at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The lawyer, thinking I was interested in his services, tells me that he has begun the divorce papers.

Do I pay the man off for the two hours of his time? or do I just go ahead with the divorce? Which is better? polyester or leather? I begin to urinate as I weigh my options.

If I Loved You…

I would rip the stones from my eye sockets,
And skip them in the rivers of yours.
I would wean myself off of cigarettes,
So my words would not taste so toxic.
And I would turn away every glass of wine,
Just to prove that you alone make my cheeks flush.

But I do not love you.
You too stare at me with stones.
And taste like nicotine.
And have had too much to drink.

To Tear Down

Today I stood at the end of my street
And I watched the trees.
I noticed how they formed a canopy,
Shading the pavement where I stood.

And I thought:
How selfish of them
To not share the sun,
But grow tall and strong
As if they were trying to touch it.

How selfish of them,
To reach deep into the earth
Stretching their legs for miles
And drinking its milk.

How selfish of them,
To play in the wind and rain
Like children
Holding no fear of any kind.

And I thought:
How selfish of me,
Wanting to tear the noblest of all living things
To the ground.

Oh, How We’ve Grown

When I was a child, I would find pinecones
And bury them in our backyard.
And before I went to bed I would pray for rain.

The next morning I would rush outside -
Expecting a forest to have grown as I slept -
Finding only the holes I had dug the day before.

When my mother found them,
She dug her fingernails into my wrists, and scolded me.
But she too was young and naive.

Nothing grows overnight.

Sweating Bullets

I was sweating bullets
And you were the innocent bystander
Who took my words to heart.

But She Loves the Man on the Moon

He is the man on the moon.
And you have moved your bed out of your apartment
And left it on a hill, hoping to be closer to him.
You stay awake at night, trying to consume his light;
But he is a liar,
And whatever light he displays is borrowed,
Like the time that you spend together.
It belongs to the sun
And so do you.

Cowards Can Sing

She was strong and determined
He was brittle and weak
But she moved like a dancer
Who was light on her feet
He knew he could lift her
With a song from the heart
Closed his eyes and he sang
Took that shot in the dark

With a solemn verse
He put her children to sleep
Those three fatherless girls
She was determined to keep
Named ‘em after the months
She spent drowning in booze
Goodnight April, ‘night May,
And Goodnight June

My Stop: A Perverted Train of Thought

It’s been two years since I’ve seen her.
But as the train pulls into the University station,
Chance brings her into my car.
Her eyes pass over the faces that occupy it,
Over mine.
For that moment I am frozen.
I have cut my hair, grown out my beard.
She doesn’t recognize me.
She stares blankly out the window just beyond me.
Her body shakes as the train rips violently down the track.
It reminds me how I too used to make her shake.
I can’t help but smile.
She recognizes me,
That damn perverted smile.
She calls out my name,
In perfect compliment to the image running through my mind.
I have no response
This is my stop.