Year’s End

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Year’s End

If I lose myself in breathing,
will the air forgive my forgetfulness?

This oak, too, will stand long after
the last train exits the tunnel.

I worry that my friend may never
clamber past his lowest ambition.

Different and unabated, our words
now stumble over themselves.

Every night forms a morning somewhere:
each year, combined in our shared darkness.

night

Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

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Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

First heaven took my wife,
and now, my son.
These eyes will never dry
and my heart slowly turns to ash.
Rain seeps far into the earth
like a pearl dropped into the sea.
Swim deep and you’ll see the pearl,
dig in the earth and you’ll find water.
But when people return to the source,
we know they’re gone forever.
I touch my empty chest and ask, who
is that withered ghost in the mirror?

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Heaven already take my wife
Again again take my son
Two eyes although not dry
(Disc) heart will want die
Rain fall enter earth in
Pearl sink enter sea deep
Enter sea can seek pearl
Dig earth can see water
Only person return source below
Through the ages know self (yes)
Touch breast now ask who
Emaciated mirror in ghost
SAM_0841

Originally posted in December, 2014.

After Before

mantis

After Before

A return to that
time when silence

reigned. The neighbor’s
guinea fowl have long

departed, but three cedars
drop needles in the circle

even as reluctant growth
pushes out from the oaks’

limbs. Nothing circles
below the clouds, no

roosters crow. Feeders
hang still and empty.

The wrens remain
cloistered. You read

these events as separate
birdless chapters, all

hushed in the dappled
air, passages carried

yet confined by nearly
soundless threads

suspended from the
persimmon tree. You admit

a status as sentient
protein, one meal among

many, while you rest
and absorb

the soft ticking
of eighteen eager

juvenile mantises
on the porch screen.

feeder

Directive to the Circumspect Texan

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Directive to the Circumspect Texan

When the vowel trips through the consonant and knots
the tongue, remember this: artifice. A making. In one

hand, a knife. On the table, cured flesh and fermented
products. Imagine uncertain lighting, laughter, a narrow

opening and the uphill walk three days into the parametric
world of occlusion. Tell no untruths. Mention refrigerators

and your proficiency with duck. Admit failure and order
a second pilz. Listen. Discuss heat and issues of space,

personnel logistics and the pleasure of July departures.
Cite advertising and Ashbery. Savor what is rightly not

yours. Embrace inadequacy. Forego dessert. Express
true gratitude. Say y’all. Shake hands. Find the door.

image

Painting

spiral

Painting

But completion
arrives in the most

limited sense,
outlines enriched and

filled with lush
darkness, the red of

an accumulated passion
for texture, for subtlety in

shade, the tactile being
one facet shared with

odor and the black hand
on the wall, the

staircase spiraling
upward, resultant desire,

body of lust, this wall, our
doing, the gathered home.

black hand

191 Days: Reflections on Ornette Coleman

I don’t reblog many posts, but I keep returning to Daniel Schnee’s essay on learning from Ornette Coleman. It rings so true for me, even (especially?) with regards to poetry, and how I approach it. Ah, to have had such a mentor!

Dr. Daniel Schnee

天才を覚えます…

The depths of winter are beginning to sing their song… bringing with them the memory of lost summer heat, and bare skin against the wind… the lost smile of the sun’s freedom…

The picture above is my favorite picture of myself and my saxophone teacher, in his apartment in New York in the summer of 2009. It captures a very happy conclusion to my final saxophone lesson with him; post-duet bliss captured immediately after a lengthy improvisation. It is also the final time I saw him. 

12 years earlier in the summer of 1997, while living/working in New York City, I had the privilege of meeting and becoming a student of this great man… Ornette Coleman (1930 – 2015), jazz legend/icon and recipient of both a Grammy™ Lifetime Achievement Award and Pulitzer Prize among other honours. He was a huge influence on much of the world’s art and music…

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Nocturne with a Line after Kees

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Nocturne with a Line after Kees

I close my eyes and see nothing but rain.
And after, take pity

for what turns beyond sight: the wretched
flower, a hiss from the road. Last night the wind
stole sleep from my body,

leaving me alone, wordless, listening
for her next breath. An alchemist,

I transmute the memories of old wounds laid open.

*****

This first appeared in Ijagun Poetry Journal, in December 2013.

Antique pharmacy

Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

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Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

Having fallen from the roof not once, but twice,
I verify that it is not the fall but the sudden stop that hurts.

The objectivist sense of the little: the and a, my house in this world.

Galileo postulated that gravity accelerates all falling bodies at the same rate.

While their etymologies differ, failure and fall share commonalities,
though terminal velocity is not one.

The distance between the glimpsed and the demonstrated.

Enthralled in the moment, Icarus drowned.

Rumor has it his plunge was due not to melting wax but to an improper mix
of rectrices and remiges: parental failure.

Thrust and lift. Drag. Resistance.

Acknowledgment of form in reality, in things.

When the produced drag force equals the plummeting object’s weight, the
object will cease to accelerate and will move at a constant speed.

To calculate impact force accurately, include the stopping distance in height.

Followed by long periods of silence.

house

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas and When the Going Gets Tough…

emergency

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas, and When the Going Gets Tough…

I answer work email in the checkout line. Drive home, take two aspirin.
Place perishables in refrigerator.  Consider collapsing in bed.  Call wife.
Let in dog.  Drive to ER, park.  Provide phone numbers. Inhale. Exhale.
Repeat. Accept fate and morphine. Ask for lights and sirens, imagine the
seas parting. On the table, consider fissures and cold air, windows and
hagfish. Calculate arm-length, distance and time.  Expect one  insertion,
receive another. Dissonance  in perception, in reality.  Turn head when
asked.  Try reciting Kinnell’s  “The Bear.”  Try again, silently this  time.
Give up.  Attempt “Ozymandias.”  Think of dark highways. Wonder about
the femoral, when and how they’ll remove my jeans. Shiver uncontrollably.

football

One Day I’ll Market Your Death

prickly

One Day I’ll Market Your Death

Do not mistake this phrase for one contiguous with threat.

Even its flower knows the theory of attractive quality.

An ideal medium for cochineal production, the prickly pear
shelters a host of creatures we seldom caress.

Which displays greater motility, the cactus or the cochineal?

Life-cycle of attributes, packaging, excitement, the unknown.

In the Aztec language, the word meant prickly pear blood.
The insects’ bodies and eggs yield carminic acid, which mixed with

aluminum or calcium salts yields the red dye.

Reaching for substance is neither metaphor nor effect. Sessile

parasite: carmine. The product of Dactylopius coccus
became the second most valued resource in Mexico, behind silver.

Opportunism unveiling itself, revealed, or, layered greed.

What appears to be fungus is wealth.

One-dimensional / attractive / indifferent. We look together
through the window and observe our separate selves.

dead

This poem originally appeared in a slightly different form in Otoliths, and was included in my chapbook length work, The Circumference of Other, published in IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, by Silver Birch Press.