The Politics of Doors
With every doorway, decisions.
Accept, deny. Turn.
How to resist the ajar,
the barely closed?
Is what emerges
expelled or escaped,
free or released?
Resistant as always,
pause to inhale.
Scarecrow Calls Out the Man
These things I cannot name: that finger of night
between fear and peace, in which darkness both cloaks
and hugs the wide-eyed. A snake, in the open. And that space
behind the watcher? Perhaps it is easier to call it something
else – a gasp, or the immeasurable measure. A presidential
folly. My friends, ever cautious, swoop in and away, taking
with them only those grains they need, unlike you. What use
is a hoarded larder if it rots? How does one come to want
everything and nothing at the same time? A gilded house
spotlights wealth, not right. Is this edifice your legacy,
your monument to self? The heart monitor’s blip paints one
forever, your pursed lips, another. But even the concrete
you cringe behind lacks permanency; regard your hands
and all they can’t stuff into your pockets. Loosen that
coiled tie lest it choke you. Accept what the mirror sees,
and await karma. Though you will not hear my voice,
I offer this: may the combined weight of your lies and
larcenies, your unpaid debts and power plays, rapes,
casual racism, privilege and coarse, childish taunts, merge
into one fist-size bankroll placed upon your chest, and
fueled by the gravitational forces of forty-four black holes,
slowly, with each turn of the earth’s axis, press down and
down and down in search of that shriveled organ, and finding
it, pluck out and replace it with one resembling that of a
genuine human, one honoring respect and love, empathy
and humility. I am the sum of integrated, discarded
pieces assembled to observe and warn, collecting only
diminishment and the means to become less. Wanting
little, the world welcomes me. It arrives free, honest, on
wings, bringing wealth beyond your reach, your greed.
I own nothing. I know nothing. But this: I name you
Scourge, and laugh at the smallness of you. I name you
Farce. I name you Empty. I name you Gone.
* * *
And there are those who still follow him…
“Scarecrow Calls Out the Man” first appeared on Vox Populi in August 2017.
In This Shack a Cold Wind Blows
In this shack a cold wind blows,
shuffling papers and ideas before settling
on the floor. Leaves rustling. Tea,
cooling. You recall the peace of near
death, fear circling the drain,
giving in to breath, labored but certain,
one exiting another and again,
then laughing at the improbability: you
are nothing. You were nothing.
Nothing will come of you. You say
yesterday, and think tomorrow. Today.
* * *
“In This Shack a Cold Wind Blows” was first published in April 2019 by The Elixir Magazine out of Yemen.
While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip
How do these things I once barely acknowledged
now snare toes or twist ankles, causing me to stumble,
spill coffee and curse. Steps, rocks, pavement, curbs.
Door sills. No matter which, without provocation.
Solitary wasps mate not in flight but in the vicinity
of their nesting area. Three years ago a female
violated our unspoken agreement of mutual
existence; my arm purpled and ballooned
to twice its normal size, and I demolished her nest
for fear that attacks would become habit. Today,
another builds in the same spot. I stoop by,
beneath notice, as she labors to make room
for eggs fertilized with stored sperm from a single
drone. Such diligence should earn rewards.
I stroll to the mailbox and marvel at their ability
to manufacture wood pulp for nests, how
certain species avoid mating with siblings
on the basis of chemical signatures, and that
they voluntarily control the sex of their offspring.
Ah, the wonders of nature! Approaching the door,
I look up and observe the growing nest with
admiration, enter the house without stumbling,
and inhale the fragrance of the perfectly arranged
lilies. The books on the table entice me, so I
pour a glass of malbec and thumb through them
with great pleasure. Soon, after sunset, she will die.
* * *
“While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip” was published in MockingHeart Review in May 2018.
Who Will Know
If I drip like snow from the roof who will know?
When I throw stones at dead men who will know?
The mother’s ghost rests in a razor-filled moat.
He purses his lips, laughs, says who will know?
You are the night sky above the red-cloud horizon.
When I fade like twilight, tell me who will know.
Which vein traces love, which proffers denial
as our blood starts flowing, and who will know?
Unanswered prayers line his frozen pockets.
When he unclenches his tiny hands, who will know?
This man’s tongue repels truth no matter the hour.
If we hear only what he allows, then who will know?
* * *
“Who Will Know” made its first appearance in May 2019 at The Local Train Magazine, a publication out of Bangladesh.
Nocturne with Flame
Not imposition, but welcome.
Another’s stirred embers, banked
and forming the kindling’s base.
Thus the licked paper curling with smoke,
stars shooting into the blackness,
and finally, exploding light
transformed to heat.
From one’s loss, another’s gain.
The flickering on my cheek.
Inhaled bitterness and memory.
The wait, the period before.
Like the owl in the live oak,
or the mice under our floor
returning, I celebrate the cycle,
and grow warm.
“Nocturne with Flame” appeared in The Galway Review in December 2016.
Divisions and separations, a summing of consequences,
the brother whose ashes remained forever lost. Two cities
and their survivors’ shame. The loud, kind young man
whose words fell to the restaurant’s floor, unbidden.
What came next in the drift, untoward and misspent,
in the grammar of between? Darkness, suppressed.
Smoke. Pleasure and fear, unclothed.
“The Ecstatics” first appeared here in January 2016. It’s an odd piece, part of a larger sequence that I put on hold several years ago. Perhaps I’ll return to it someday.
Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,
the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost
in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet
altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing
clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,
only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,
the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something, she says,
and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.
“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.
Article by Stephanie L. Harper:
Story Up at Spoonie Magazine!
A must read! Poignant and illuminating, and so true.