Why do I refine myself?
It is discipline, grace I need
from language as quickly bent,
rusted with corrosive saliva
in another mouth, disintegrated
in some other thought.
It is a work of hands too.
I whittle a desperate notion
as the salty sailor becomes
delicate, patiently carves
his intricate scrimshaw
in thunderstorms and sunrise.
A turning of days alive on a horizon.
No land in sight.  Earth, a comfort
my body longs to press, comes
only as an idea.  Home.  A nebulous
fiction behind the eyes.
Maybe I search for You.
Evidence.  A generation of elegance
so I dress and decorate, impose
a wayward resonance
on some ragged minstrel’s bones.
When tomorrow might crumble
in a landslide of coquina sands
and the ocean drain
to a sultan’s sewage,
I seek a Promethean light.
Sift the ragpicker’s wares, find
truth in meticulous inscription,
the courage of sculpted ivory,
redemption when the troubadour’s song
is devoured for eternity.


LISA RAE CUNNINGHAM is a massage therapist. She lives in Los Angeles with her son.

13 responses to “When the Ragged Troubadour Sings”

  1. Lorna says:

    Beautiful poem Lisa. I am sure I will find myself returning to reread this many times today.

  2. JOnathan Campbell says:

    The poetess spoke with words of wisdom and beauty… a reflection of her spirit and of her heart. Rare the woman who possess such gifts… lucky the man who experiences them….
    Well done Lisa!

    Uncle Jonathan

  3. cool.
    corrosive saliva
    intricate scrimshaw
    Sultan’s sewage
    Promethean light

  4. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Thanks for reading this, Sean.

  5. Brandy says:

    “…rusted with corrosive saliva
    in another mouth, disintegrated
    in some other thought. …”


  6. Judy Prince says:

    Lisa Rae, this poem is stunning with beauty and elegant active echoes drawing the Seeker’s portrait, facing a cold harming world but buoying and ready for love.

    Really, I’d need to paste in the entire poem to show you my favourite lines, the exquisite figures, and the brushes of subtle joy you’ve painted with.


  7. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Thank you, Judy. It’s always such a project getting a poem out into world. They come in droves but mostly reside in my journals.

  8. Nice work, Lisa. Glad to see you representing in the Poetry Department here on TNB.

  9. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Appreciate it, Rich.

  10. scrimshaw hair bone…

    […]Lisa Rae Cunningham | When the Ragged Troubadour Sings | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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