Scarecrow Takes a Holiday

Scarecrow Takes a Holiday

Having neither organs nor neural impulses,
I no longer ask why or how I hear and smell,
taste and see, feel. This morning I woke
to magpie song and onion breeze, in
a body not mine, yet mine, at peace
on Jeju Island, far from my crows, yet
still among friends singing the same
language. I know this: home lives
within, and no matter where we travel,
it rides with us. Like the man who
spoke to me, bald, bearded, a pale
foreigner in this land, comfortable
here, at home. He listened for my reply,
but unfortunately I’d not been given
a mouth, and my words dropped to the
ground and were rolled away by
beetles before he noticed them.
Perhaps I should have written a note,
but he wished to gamble and how
could I refuse? I am hollow, but not
empty, whole, yet not complete,
away but here. He took a coin
from his pocket, flipped it. I saw…

A response to Daniel Paul Marshall’s “Scarecrow Travels (after Robert Okaji)”

Scarecrow Travels (after Robert Okaji)

Scarecrow visits Daniel Paul Marshall…

Daniel Paul Marshall

i wrote this relatively quick, i saw the scarecrow pictured & a sort of surreal narrative took shape. i’d like to do more of these after poets-i-know-poems. i’ll be keeping my good eye open.


scarecrow

Scarecrow Travels (after Robert Okaji)

i see you with my own eyes—mid-crucifixion

edge of an onion field dressed in tartan & flowers,
the sleeve of its handkerchief hiding a face;
a greedy magpie readying its beak to pick
out that face, i lob a brick to scare it off
& found the face to be but an imagined thing,
a tool, appendage to comfort us— no scars or burns.

How come you’re so far from Okaji’s poems, why leave them?
The stammer of your silence still your own.
We’ll flip a coin & if i win the toss
you must promise to return to those poems;
i’ll hear none of the usual excuses, no best…

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Recording of My Poem “His Softness”

shoes

His Softness

What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water

that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,

and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me

fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away

and still breathing. How
may I honor you

if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how

umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading

in the weekly newspaper
a month after

that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,

somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with

the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,

can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.

.* * *

“His Softness” was published in January 2016 in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review, and reappeared here in July 2016.

To the Lovely Green Beetles Who Carried My Notes into the Afternoon

To the Lovely Green Beetles Who Carried My Notes into the Afternoon

Such beauty should not be bound,
thus I tied loose knots,

knowing you would slip free
and shed my words

as they were meant,
across browned lawns,

just over the cedar fence
or at the curb’s edge,

never to be assembled,
and better for it.

* * *

This appeared in riverSedge Volume 29, Issue 1, released in October 2016. I first encountered riverSedge in 1983, and vowed that one day my poetry would be published in this journal. It took a while…

Recording of My Poem “Exile”

cloudy

 

Exile

Having abandoned one, I claim the other.

Rain speckles the driveway.

Solitude pays its toll with unmet expectations,
thunder receding, clouds shriveling to dust.

The mockingbird chirrs its cricket tune
before flying to a higher perch.

What you call home I call diminishment.

What you surrender, I bundle and mail to strangers.

 

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Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

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Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

We cut the finest apricot for roof beams
and braided fragrant grasses over them.

I wonder if clouds might form there
and rain upon this world?

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Fine apricot cut for roofbeam
Fragrant cogongrass tie for eaves
Not know ridgepole in cloud
Go make people among rain

Each adaptation poses its challenges, and this one was certainly no exception.
First I identified key words and determined how or whether to use them.
Apricot, roofbeam, cogongrass, eaves, ridgepole, cloud, people, rain.

Apricot was a given. It offered specificity, and feels lovely in the mouth. Roof beams, as well. Cogongrass didn’t make the cut. It is indeed used for thatched roofs in southeast Asia, but it felt clumsy; in this case, the specificity it lent detracted from my reading. And rather than use “thatched” I chose “braided” to imply the layered effect of thatching, and to imply movement, to mesh with and support the idea of clouds forming and drifting under the roof. “Not know” posed a question: did it mean ignorance or simply being unaware, or perhaps a state of wonderment? I first employed “unaware” but thought it took the poem in a different direction than Wang Wei intended (but who knows?). “Ridgepole” seemed unnecessary. So I chose to let the reader follow the unsaid – using “form there” to reinforce the impression already shaped by the roof beams and the grasses “over them.” I admit to some trepidation over the second couplet. It may still need work.

clouds

“Apricot House” first appeared here in December 2014.

Rice

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Rice

Yesterday’s rain informs me I’m born of luck and blended
strands, of hope and words forged before a common tongue emerged.

Of my first two languages only one still breathes.

The other manifests in exile, in blurred images and hummed tunes.

Rice is my staple. I eat it without regarding its English etymology,
its transition from Sanskrit to Persian and Greek, to Latin, to French.

Flooding is not mandatory in cultivation, but requires less effort.

Rice contains arsenic, yet I crave its polished grains.

In my monolingual home we still call it gohan, literally cooked rice, or meal.
The kanji character, bei, also means America.

Representing a field, it symbolizes abundance, security, and fertility.

Three rice plants tied with a rope. Many. Life’s foundation.

To understand Japan, look to rice. To appreciate breadth, think gohan.
Humility exemplified: sake consists of rice, water and mold.

The words we shape predicate a communion of aesthetics.

Miscomprehension inhabits consequence.

* * *

“Rice” appeared here in June 2015, and in my chapbook, The Circumference of Other, which is included in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.

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