Friday, October 14, 2022

I wrote a poem after seeing a friend's artwork...


Untitled, by Koss

after Koss

is it the rage of the gods 
or is mother Earth simply a woman who won't be fucked with
the drunken gods mad with humanity
this planet Earth at the brink of inhabitability
an alien species siphoning oxygen from the soil to study on a distant planet
the engine of time & space reckoning with parallel universes
dust in the wind candles in the mind fortresses in the hidden air
clouds made from fists in circles drumming dust on the moon dust in the air dancing thorn’d music
dust yet to become reigning limitation
i feel my own size everywhere standing breadth depth everywhere circling revolving 
orbiting the unbegun
i'm begging! 
the sky is the window to the soul!
with my eyes two overflowing begging bowls
the sky is the window to the soul!
who's inside looking out who's outside looking in—
owl eye sees it coming from miles away
knows what will happen before it happens
owl eye seized in becoming 
cloaked in reverie
stillness overthrown omni 
2,000 hands in the sky drumming cyclones birthing magnanimous 
a headless chicken in a cosmic yard of ascension
the air prefers swarms of altitude
Kali flowers build & destroy middle paths a peeling back of the senses' white knuckles 
on the wheel of good fortune
on guard the god of thunder tired of heard not seen like a dumb thief surges of wind unforgotten 
the mind of universal wisdom
the unseen's lifting the air with the same wisdom woman is able to lift a car for child
two invisible hands in the sky above the clouds kneeling to nothing singing crumbling 
overthrowing stillness 
cyclones orb across landscapes cycles writing on the wall civilization ain't civilized
signs of the times signs of the ages from blue to gray blink betrayal of gilded reverence 
the rainbow's totem invisible crown of nature
womb of creation  
oscillating crumbling the tight rope between known & unknown 
listen to crow raven dirge proto crown rain dance epitome 
surges of silence darkness proto 
gray is the color of boundless gray abundance gray in between gray the middle path gray the living through experience gray the answer to the question in the form of a question Gibraltar will heed 
Stone Henge will weep the way you approach gray is who & what you are

INCARNATIONS © 2022 Daniel Cyran

Koss (she, them, they) is a poet, writer and artist. Their work can be found on the web via

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Review: Verna Hampton's Sister FM Diva


“I’m a daughter, a sister, and a mother

Both grand and great

And I am here to enlighten, entertain, and educate”

-        Verna Hampton, What Is A Name


The poems in Sister FM Diva celebrate, sing, rap, bless, curse, revel, and ultimately reveal a poet who is devoted. This is a poet devoted to her community, to her love of humanity, to her love of justice, of truth. These poems are anti-apathy, anti-delusion. I have been encouraged by the poet Sean Thomas Dougherty who once said (paraphrased): I try not to use the word brilliant or great when describing a poet or poem, but instead try to look in the direction that the poet is pointing. With this in mind, it is clear that Verna Hampton is pointing to the human heart.

In these wild & savage times, with the new millennium not even mid-way through its third decade, this heart energy is needed. The poems in this collection are teeming with so much heart and soul, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from time spent with this collection and not be encouraged, challenged, changed; each and every time. At times I was inspired to weep, at other times I was filled with so much anger I wanted to break something. The poems in Sister FM Diva encourage sincere responses, it is clear, because they are coming from a sincere place.

Another thing I noticed while spending time with Sister FM Diva is that the poet is committed to the real. Verna Hampton is a poet of reality. She sees clearly the situation at hand, the on-going crises that human beings are faced with; and does not shy away from delivering her assessments as far as what is required of us, of human beings, in order to truly be free. As well, these poems are unapologetically Black. Hampton is a member of a cohort of Black story tellers, poets and griots with a rich tradition of truth telling.

While reading Verna Hampton’s collection, I was reminded of Wanda Coleman, and her one-of-a-kind delivery of her poems. When I first heard a Wanda Coleman poem recited by the poet herself, I had heard nothing like it before, and have heard nothing like it to this day. Similarly, I would be eager to hear or see Verna Hampton recite her poetry in a live setting. From what I can tell on the page, the poet has given herself much room for song, much room for her own human uniqueness to shine through—in a way that I think Wanda Coleman also wrote to ensure that nobody was as capable of delivering the power, insight, and beauty of her words like she herself was able to do. I see this possibility in Verna Hampton’s work as well.

I will also argue that it is largely due to Hampton’s knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the past; and due to her being grounded, not unlike the grounding of a majestic oak tree, with its deeply rooted foundation in the Earth, in the present moment; which makes these poems so enjoyable, enlightening and entertaining.

I see Verna Hampton's poems as a reminder for these generations. In a world that seemingly continues ever spiraling towards forgetfulness, delusion, poets like Hampton, who enlighten in their reminding, are healers. To witness the truth of the past and present being told with so much strength and courage is a healing endeavor.

While reading Sister FM Diva, I was reminded of a quote from Jonas Mekas, who said: In the very end, societies perish because they listen to their politicians, and not to their poets. I hope this review serves as encouragement to those with open hearts, with open minds; Verna Hampton’s voice and poems are saying something we need to listen to, attend to, and carry within that sacred human heart-space I believe she is pointing towards.

To order copies of Sister FM Diva by Verna Hampton, click here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


Rains move in from the north
and somewhere in my home town
someone is playing the final trumpet.
This planet has taken about as much abuse
from human hands as it can fathom, I'm afraid.
If you place a penny on the cool bent steel of 
railroad tracks, it is only a matter of time
before the thing is heated and flattened.
In the end you will have a neat looking souvenir
and only be a penny the lesser. All my suffering
has led me to this. To be a mortal thing,
one must shine in some brief and unmistakable way. 
Like glimpses of daylight receding across a puddle. 
The last funeral I attended was for a soldier. 
Tears and tears and tears and yet we still allow 
rich and greedy men to keep sending our brothers 
and sisters back home in closed coffins. I listen to the 
pitter patter of water against concrete blocks, a motorcycle 
in the distance, probably a Honda, faintness of birdcall—
love is in the air now—I'm remembering the last time 
I made love: we were too exhausted for fucking 
so we laid on our backs in bed, hand in hand, reading our 
thoughts to each other. For a long time, it became
quiet and we laid next to one another in the silence of night, 
I would squeeze my left hand, she would squeeze her right hand
in intervals to keep each other awake to the moment. 
We went on like that for hours, and woke up the next day 
hand in hand. The rain has stopped. Smoke pirouettes 
from my exhales, a lit cigarette, like a lantern surrounded 
by a phalanx of black crows gathering in droves, a reminding 
of the truth: darkness surrounds us and we don't even know it, 
the weight of the world.

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


You look up and it's suddenly 4 p.m.
in the tragedy of lives in constant motion
in the heat of mid-summer, body & mind somewhere else
completely, a grasshopper on its hind legs 
somewhere in the tall grass 
an unintelligible prayer in its being,
humans and what they've made
of each other's presence,
nuclear fallout endless wars toxic oceans,
eminent catastrophe at every turn,
erratic step by erratic step
gecko making mockeries of the walls 
which act as barriers for
curiosities of the neighbors—
their lives too in constant motion,
their lives too touched by an endless drama of confusion,
it's been more than a few months since I've stepped outside
my own shoes, though light through the window pane
still does something wordless to my spirit,
the candles still sing, voices in the head
still console, what more can I say? Our problem
isn't too much desire, our problem is not enough
desire. Our species doesn't know what is needed and
on a macro level we're lost because individuals do not know what they want.
Give me a cup of tea and a cool shower in the summer,
and the thieves can keep their money tables in the temples.
I wouldn't be surprised if by 2032 every church bell on both sides 
of the Mississippi rang and rang and rang to no one at all beneath them.
Give me my lady's hand on a wind washed tree-lined street with our joys intact
and I don't give a fuck about celebrity news, whom said what to whom,
four-star generals, the apocalypse. While I believe the Buddha was right when
he cautioned against attachments; being in love is not for the emptied mind, 
nor is she meek. I've seen her lifting the same one-ton from the weight 
of her babies’ crying beneath it on this block each and every morning since 2009.

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

Saturday, July 9, 2022

SET IN MOTION (freewrite 2)


Give my body back to the earth—
I will live the remainder of my life
as an ocean  an eddy  a canal  a puddle
a branch of oleander swaying in dawn's rainlight

The neighbors for the first time in my life
are crazier than I am
For the first time in my life I have
let go in the fight against my mind

There is solace in letting go—
Beauty is not a pleasant thing—
My heart is torn from my chest
daily, nightly in pursuit of it

Summers come and go,
cool damp grapefruit or
nameless thunder
or a flash of flesh and bone 
set in motion
towards numberless darknesses
like countless unbroken horses
drumming the ground with pure animal instinct

(Light is born millions of times per second)

I have come here to celebrate life

Turning back the clocks
Unlocking the windows
Opening the doors

Searching a warm wind
to lean this sorrow against
as the fires 
on every one of my tongues
to slowly

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

*freewrite: a stream-of-consciousness exercise where the first thought that comes to mind is written down, followed by the next, and the next, and the next, without any interruption from second thoughts, second guesses or time for reflection.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Review: Owen McLeod's DREAM KITCHEN


Inflated elves give way to inflated rabbits clutching inflated carrots. Smiling toast. Water that was once the sky. Bubba is Lord. Reading DREAM KITCHEN is an enriching, life-affirming experience.

Owen McLeod writes with a child-like wonder and fascination that seems to be a celebratory exploration of language. Seemingly melding his own life experience and vocabulary with a dash of the imaginatively marvelous, these poems ignited, intrigued and perplexed my own imagination throughout.

Throughout DREAM KITCHEN, McLeod’s first full-length poetry collection, it feels like the poet is writing an invitation of sorts. The poet invites the reader to look at the world through his eyes, to see with his vision in the current moment, the current poem. These poems are remarkably inviting. With an unquantifiable depth of emotion, the way this poetic captivates attention, and rewards the reader with a sincerity in the humor and an open-hearted insight? Marvelous.

These poems seem to run the entire gamut of the emotional world. Curiosity, longing, joy, pain, sorrow, fear, ecstasy; it’s all in here. Some of my favorite lines come from McLeod’s ‘characters’ being set on a process of discovery. There is a running theme of seeking and searching throughout the collection as well. Such as in the final lines of MIDDLEMARCH, when the speaker’s son is fascinated by a chocolate bunny rabbit on Easter:

“He bit off the head and peeked inside,

Then wept when he saw it was hollow.”


“I open the piano lid and crawl inside.

If they search long enough, they’ll find me.”

Perhaps the speaker is lamenting on the ever fading privacy which seems to be an on-going predicament for human beings in the 21st century. These lines conclude the poem in a way I relate to. Perhaps the poet is pointing to an intrinsic, human need for solitude. The very last line alludes to a kind of hope, and a kind of paranoia at the same time. I find McLeod’s lines complex at the right times, and simple at the right times. This is a poet of depth, of a range which embraces the often elaborate and complicated modes in which a humane voice finds it possible to spring forth.

The brilliant poet Nikki Wallschlaeger recently illumined her views of craft to me during a Twitter exchange. She said (paraphrased), that she views craft as a poet’s own authentic way of communicating in their own voice, in their own style, so when you read a poet, you know it’s them, there’s no mistaking it. I was reminded of this exchange while reflecting on McLeod’s work. While I'm certain there is a long list of influences and inspirations behind McLeod's poems, his craft seems to be uniquely his own. The voice, tone, and style are primed for deep listening. 

Reading DREAM KITCHEN was my second encounter with this poet’s work, so I don’t feel I have a big picture idea of precisely what may follow this collection, though this is definitely fertile grounds for a promising poetic craftsman to flourish.

I don’t know that I am ever capable of fully understanding what a particular artist or poet is doing. And I’m not usually concerned with understanding poems in this way, either. One thing I learned from, or rather, was reminded of, in my reading of DREAM KITCHEN, is to strive to see and appreciate where the poet is coming from, and to meet them there, on their own turf, so to speak. There is a great reward in meeting the poet on this sacred ground.

Certainly, writing poetry is work. And I think reading can involve work as well. It is an enjoyable kind of labor, sure, but it can’t be a one-way street. I felt like I was immersed in a world that was similar to my own, but not quite the same. A voice and points of view that were similar to my own, but with a tinge of difference to them. This dual feeling of familiarity and difference is welcome, cherished, and I am grateful to celebrate the gift of poetry with Owen McLeod as I continue my reading and explorations of DREAM KITCHEN. 


From the University of North Texas Press:

Owen McLeod’s extraordinary debut maps the contours of an ordinary life: the rise and fall of romantic love, the struggle against mental illness, and the unending quest for meaning and transcendence. Ranging from sonnets and sestinas to experimental forms, these poems are unified by their musicality, devotion to craft, and openness of heart.

Owen McLeod’s DREAM KITCHEN is the Winner of the 2018 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry

To purchase copies of DREAM KITCHEN, via University of North Texas Press, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Poem for Giorgia Pavlidou

for Giorgia Pavlidou

When I think I've found the truth my gecko eyes explode with laughter.
This world is born & dies & is reborn & dies & is reborn on a hinge of my very humane eyelids.
The clock is always hungry.
I tried to feed time to the river but the river rejected time.
You will starve, I said.
You're drowning in air, the river said.
Still thinking about a hallucination I saw when I was -3,000 years old.
I have often wished to escape myself.
My face before I was born is now another moon orbiting Jupiter.
I sleep with Cygnus in my ears & awaken to stardust in my pillowcase.
A sign in the park reads "Do not feed the birds" but there are no birds.
It's only a man & a woman dancing in circles on the grass, unchaining the earth from its orbit with each step.
Somewhere this universe is sitting on a shelf next to a pair of maracas & an accordion.
A crowded dancehall on the tip of the tongue.
If you knew everything that has ever happened & everything that will ever happen, would life be easier or harder?
The otherside is often misunderstood.
There are thousands & thousands of suns in the sky tonight & they're all held together by kite string & super glue.
The next time I get drunk in a cemetery I'm going to stay there forever.
Last night my heart was torn out of body by a pigeon looking down from a telephone wire.
The last time I saw an orb of light in a stranger's chest I walked to school uphill both ways with rain clouds in my shoes.
My dreams have been serious blunders ever since coyote took that vow of silence.
Now days I rely on these mountains to evolve my languages.
Things haven't been the same since the invention of the wheel.

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Wednesday Poem

in anticipation of summer solstice
after Uche Nduka

 all around me
the faces of deserts
throw eyes
ignite roots

the fury of weightlessness
the pull of glaciers—

the possibility of an empty dancehall
the memory of a flickering candle under siege

to be human in these aeons
is to open the palms
to each beauty
threatening the death driven...

nectars & medicines

...all around me
my many faces open the doors
my rosary of thorns
my crown of insight

thoughts are light
thoughts are light

in this wild mind
all thoughts on their knees
with one hand to the heart
with one hand to the Earth

that i become the gold at the bed of the river
a mouth of mirrors 
siphoning salt from ocean floors

drink from my cup & throw my cup to the horizon

reflections, moments, tears of dust
birth me as i am & give birth too as you are

brother to a wayfaring vision
singing child of true north

send back gilded pasts send back the eyes askew
send back lucre send back greedy tongues send back uncurious hands
heed birdsong heed mandolin & cello heed the mystery 
unfold stillnesses unlock secret ghosts of the heart
untie the heart from the freezer door
heed possibility heed orbitals heed voices from nowhere
heed the moment's calling

everywhere your windows embark the unseen
everywhere beheaded statues cannot dance—

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

This poem was written after a reading of With a Swoop, via The Poetry Foundation: With a Swoop, by Uche Nduka

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Review: Oriana Ivy's How to Jump from a Moving Train


Oriana Ivy writes with a tenderness which I find alluring. In How to Jump from a Moving Train, this tenderness is perhaps most apparent in-part because these poems are mainly centered around the poet’s relationship with her mother.

Jack Kerouac once quipped: I wrote this book because we’re all gonna die. Life is accompanied by unparalleled loss, by seemingly insurmountable pain; without anything extra added to it, just on the strength of the fact that each one of us will have to leave this bodily plane at some point, and nobody knows when that will be, for themselves or others; because of this, I heed Oriana Ivy’s message of warmth, of kindness, of tenderness.

Reading How to Jump from a Moving Train is not unlike developing a sincere friendship with someone. In the beginning there is curiosity, wonder, joy, gratitude. By the end of this book, these feelings prevail, if not more fully amplified & heightened, due to the real possibility that we eventually see the death of this person who we have developed a sense of love and friendship for, by having known them.

There are so many “little” details and memories throughout this chapbook, which calls to mind the idea of witness. To witness someone, is to see that person for who they are. To be present with and for that person. Providing witness for someone, of course, carries on even after their physical presence is no longer a reality. To remember the goodness, laughter, the humor; such as when her mother whispered in Polish, at a party, that the fellow partygoers don’t understand anything. Or when contemplating desire, the conclusion is made: But without wanting / the highest, is it really life? To provide witness for someone with love in this way, I think, is a kind of grace. Is a kind of relief from the trauma and suffering which often seems to be embedded in this human life.

Another thing I love about this collection is that the poems come to the reader on the ground that the suffering of life is understood as a fact. Life can be messy, many of us are damaged along the way, many of us do damage along the way. These facts are approached with a kind of trust in the reader that I admire.

That the poet is able to bring the focus, beyond the trauma and pain of her journey, to the love, warmth and wisdom for herself, her mother and with gratitude for her own position in this world, I think, is a sure sign that it can be done. It is possible to come to a place of warmth & peace for ourselves, our loved ones, and each other. No matter what.

Throughout my reading of How to Jump from a Moving Train, I see Oriana Ivy as a witness to the good in humanity, as someone who holds a kind of radical endurance. This endurance is a great teacher. I am reminded that I can make it through the storms of my lives with my humanity intact, with my warmth intact, with a kind of persevering tenderness which opens oneself to the art & action of being present to love, and loving as fully, as humanely possible.

Order your copy of Oriana Ivy's chapbook, How to Jump from a Moving Train, via Books-A-Million, here.

"How to Jump from a Moving Train" by Oriana Ivy Book Trailer

Saturday, May 28, 2022

i light a candle (freewrite 1)

i light a candle & make forbidden love to the hidden air
i light a candle & pull myself together
i light a candle & know there is nothing else but this
i light a candle & run from the blood of the air
i light a candle & hum to the grudge over there
i light a candle & singe my tongue on fairy tales
i light a candle & remember who i am
i light a candle & risk it all for even a glimpse of the moon tonight
i light a candle & stillness pervades
i light a candle & forget to bless my vision
i light a candle & see into the future
i light a candle & everywhere i step is a shrine for the lonely & afraid
i light a candle & become a holy man
i light a candle & become bereft and derelict
i light a candle & pray for the prayer on my tongue
i light a candle & the mind's wings reach thru my forehead into the blood of the air
i light a candle & give hawk wings to cicada song
i light a candle & give owl eyes to children dancing rain dances
i light a candle & give cardinal his true colors
i light a candle & give moments of silence to my dead forever and ever
i light a candle & give opium dens more smoke and new visions of christ in the desert of swords 
i light a candle & give g-d another name & another & another & another name
i light a candle & give my children a better tomorrow
i light a candle & give my praying hands to the otherside
i light a candle & give the sun to distant planets for the night
i light a candle & say these mountains into existence
i light a candle & protect the unspoken
i light a candle & put my arms around the unseen
i light a candle & forge my own signature onto library cards of strangers
i light a candle & laugh uncontrollably at my own strengths & weaknesses, high
i light a candle & cry enough tears tonight to birth 1,000 new rivers on the west coast alone
i light a candle & remind my lover not to rush the beauty in her dreams

© 2022 Daniel Cyran

*freewrite: a stream-of-consciousness exercise where the first thought that comes to mind is written down, followed by the next, and the next, and the next, without any interruption from second thoughts, second guesses or time for reflection.