Cracked

 

 

Cracked

When you say smile, I hear footsteps.
When you say love, I think shortened breath,
an inner tube swelling in the abdomen,
and the magic of tension and elasticity.
Decision, indecision. Bursting
points. The child’s hand clenching
a pin. I tell myself this, too,
will pass, that life’s gifts
balance hurt with pleasure. One
kiss lands in softness. Another twists
into bruises and cracked ribs. Two
nights in intensive care, perpetual
nerve-shredding. When you say quiet,
I see headstones. When you say
please, I feel fingers at my throat.

 

 

“Cracked” first appeared in Noble Gas Quarterly. I’m grateful to the Noble Gas team for taking this piece.

 

 

Beer Bottle Suizen

Beer Bottle 

Beer Bottle Suizen

No rules apply here. I blow
into the empty bottle and achieve
silence. Tilting it, I adjust my mouth’s
shape and blow across the glass lip,
receiving a flicker of tone in return.
Repeat. More of the same. Discarding
the vessel, I open another, drink deeply.
Become the emptying.

* * *

Note: Suizen (blowing zen) is the practice of playing the shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute) to attain self-realization.

“Beer Bottle Suizen” first appeared in Subterranean Blue in March 2020.

Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)

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Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)

These quiet days are ending
and now I must leave.

I miss my home’s fragrant grasses
but will grieve at parting – we’ve

eased each other’s burdens on this road.
True friends are scarce in life.

I should just stay there alone, forever
behind the closed gate.

 

* * *

“Parting from Wang Wei” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Quiet end what wait
Day day must go return
Wish seek fragrant grass go
Grieve with old friend separated
On road who mutual help
Understanding friend life this scarce
Only should observe solitude
Again close native area door

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This Turning

turning

 

This Turning

what one says
depends not on
words the wind

begins it does
not end but
lends itself to

an end this
turning may be
an answer the

sound of intent
so concealed a
word displayed is

only a word
not an end
nor the beginning

 

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Another oldie from the eighties. It seems that even my poetry was thinner then.

Mockingbird III

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Mockingbird III

Songs, returned
to their space

within the sphere of
movement, the patterns inscribed
as if to touch the face of every

wind: here one moment, then
gone. This quickness delights us.
How, then, do we so often forget

those things we share? Night
comes and goes to another’s
phrase, yet each note is so precisely

placed, so carefully rendered
that we hear only the voice, not its source.

 

* * *

Another piece from the 80s. This first appeared here in March 2015, and would likely be a much longer poem if I were to write it today.

 

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Celestial Navigation

 

Celestial Navigation

Even dung beetles
know the stars,

how they shape
destination.

Motion ceases with arrival.

This body attracting
that. The heart

losing itself
to the moon’s

pull, another wave
falling.

Does light descend
or rise?

Subtle yet observant.

Like truth, like
destiny shivering

through the coldest hour,
saying Welcome, welcome!

 

 

 

“Celestial Navigation” was first published in Nine Muses Poetry in July  2019.

 

Poet’s Pantry

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In my sliver of the world, poetry and cooking share many qualities. When I step into the kitchen, I often have only a vaporous notion of what’s for dinner. A hankering for roasted poblano peppers, the need to use a protein languishing in the refrigerator, the memory of an herbal breeze wafting down a terraced hill near Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, according to Virgil, or even a single intriguing word, may spark what comes next. But the success of what follows depends upon the ingredients at hand, on how we’ve stocked the pantry. Good products beget better results. Let’s take my desire for roasted poblanos. What to do with them? Poking around, I uncover an opened package of goat cheese, a bit of grated grana padano and some creme fraiche, and I immediately think pasta! Looking further I spot arugula, a lemon, a handful of pecans, some cherry tomatoes. Dinner: Pappardelle with a roasted poblano and goat cheese sauce, garnished with toasted pecans, served with an arugula and cherry tomato salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Simple, when you’ve stocked a solid base of quality components.

My writing employs a similar process. Anything – a vague sense of uneasiness, a particular word, the sunlight slanting through the unfortunate dove’s imprint on my window, articles or books I’ve read or perused on a myriad of subjects – may launch a poem. But what truly makes the poem, what bolsters, fills and completes, what ignites and catapults it arcing into the firmament? The pantry’s contents.

Everyone’s needs differ, and I wouldn’t presume to inflict my peculiar sensibilities on anyone, but if you cracked open my burgeoning poetry pantry’s door, you’d certainly unearth dictionaries and a thesaurus, fallen stars, books on etymology and language, curiosity, a guitar or mandolin, at least one window (sometimes partially open), conversations floating in the ether, various empty frames, wind, dog biscuits and dirty socks, a walking stick, sunlight and shadows, more books on such subjects as ancient navigation, the history of numbers, the periodic table, alchemy and olives. You might also spy reams of paper, unspoken words, coffee cups, a scorpion or two, scrawled notes on index cards, wandering musical notes, a pipe wrench, wood ear mushrooms and salvaged fragments of writing, failed ideas moldering in clumps on the floor, a few craft beers and empty wine bottles, a chain saw, and most important of all, a bucketful of patience.

(I cannot over-emphasize the bucket’s contents…)

This is just to say (no, I didn’t eat the plums) that the best equipped poets stock their pantries with the world and all its questions, with logic, with faith, persistence, emotion, science, art, romance and yes, patience. Line your kit with every tool you can grasp or imagine. Keep adding to it. Read deeply. Listen. Breathe. Listen again. Converse. Look outward. Further, past the trees, around the bend and beyond the horizon’s curve, where the unknown lurks. Look again. Don’t stop. Continue.

And if after all this you’re wondering what basks in my kitchen pantry:

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This first appeared here in January  2014.

Mockingbird

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Mockingbird

Withdrawn, it unfolds
to another
voice, like that

of a child lost in the wind.
Or, lonely, it rises from its place

and sings, only
to return and start again.
The pleasure we accept derives from

the knowledge that we are not alone.
Each morning we walk out and sit
by the stones, hoping to observe some

new patterns in his life. What we
see is an answer. What we hear is no song.

 

* * *

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“Mockingbird” made its first appearance here in January 2015. It was written
in the 1980s, probably around 1987-1989.

 

Take Another Piece of My Heart

 

Take Another Piece of My Heart

Perhaps the left ventricle, or the anterior descending
vein. No matter which you grab, I’ll not survive
the seizure, but is that not the point?  And which coin
will you place in my mouth to ease the passage across
the river Acheron? Or will I remain on the banks,
neutral and overlooked, forgotten. If this river is woe,
I serve its pride. I wear its banner. Do you recall the
butcher’s bill from that last flight? Sixty innocents,
including children. How many more must we tally
before admitting to the futility of perpetual war?
An acquaintance on the ground that day saw the
flash and immediately thought there are no mistakes,
just as I, from my box in Nevada, admitted, too, that
no mistakes occur, a synchronicity joined in death
and its production. I no longer employ euphemism.
When my coworker’s eyes crinkle and he laughs
about weeding the lawn of fun-sized terrorists,
I see bloody children, mangled flesh, smoke and
flame. I kill from comfort and afar. This is my life.

 

 

* * *

“Take Another Piece of My Heart” was published in Ligeia’s Winter 2019 edition.  Many thanks to poetry editor Ashley Wagner for taking this poem. I’m also grateful to Tami Wright for providing the title and sponsoring “Take Another Piece of My Heart” in the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 fundraiser.

 

Two Poems Up at Formidable Woman Sanctuary

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My poems “Scarecrow Dreams” and “Scarecrow Remembers” have been reprinted and are live at Formidable Woman Sanctuary. Many, many thanks to editor d. ellis phelps for taking these two pieces and for her many contributions to the poetry world.