Between

between

 Between

1

Living between, we watch what flows below us shed itself.

And what remains after the drought subsides?

I don’t recall the instance of assignation, of color-imprinted
awareness and stones erupting from the earth,

nor the paper’s texture and the faint odor of chemicals reacting,
but in this moment I embrace bitter coffee, the wrecked-nerve

hammer-strikes pulsing from hip to ankle, squealing brakes
and the rain shallowing morning’s ridge as if to say

enjoy me now
for I may never return.

2

Faith flickers in the wind, darting among the weeds.

Risen from payment, penalty, punishment, revenge, the word pain
establishes justification where none need exist.

Interpreting light and sound, scent and heat, we converse.

The dog shivers in bed and I lay a towel over her,
affixing content to involuntary movement.

Stepping through space, crossing the stream.

Those things we don’t know.

Three feet below me the snake’s head ripples towards the far side,
a V of turbulence dissecting the calm.

Everything that can be contained contains us as we in turn
envelop one another. I take your hand and press forward.

3

Connected, we part, only to return and part again.

My hand stopped inches away and the diamondback slithered off
under the workbench, seeking peace.

Abandoned skin, abandoned words. Even the cactus grows thirsty.

The paradox of becoming what you are not. Today, sitting hurts
and standing provides little relief.

In one of two halves I find myself. In the other, your laughter rings.

Like rumblings of earthen discontent or the hiss of air
exiting waterless pipes, we emerge, aimless, exhausted.

Inhabiting one world, we seek others.

 

* * *

“Between” appeared in Clade Song, one of my favorite poetry journals, in August 2016. 

 

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento)

balance

 

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento) 

As if what we wanted
were not the thing
that falls,

as what was given
to answer ourselves with – air

moving, a stone
on a stone,
something balanced momentarily.

Or wheels turning,
spinning, spinning.

The waters would suffer
at being waves,
but nothing of their dream
takes place,

nothing that is complete
breathes. But the world
is peopled with objects.

You grow smaller,
smaller, and always
heavier.

You can think of nothing else.

 

Credits:

Jane Hirshfield, Gustaf Sobin, George Oppen, Joy Harjo, Alberto de Lacerda, Jacques Dupin, Francis Ponge, Denise Levertov, Jacques Roubaud.

* * *

“What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes” appeared in Issue Four of Long Exposure, in October 2016.
wheels

Human Distance

nautical_tools


Human Distance 

1

Apart from edges, and into deeper darkness,
our scars crawl, remaining aloof.

2

Open windows frame the ache in motion, the
displaced notes between two wavering spaces.

3

Absent light, absent voice. What is the longitude of
grace? Consider errors and their remnants.

4

Navigators measured lunar distance and the height
of two bodies to determine Greenwich time.

5

I study the passing cloud
and its descent, noting the nature of condensation.

6

Desire: the fragmented night and its circumstance.

7

Heavenly form. The moon’s dull glow.
Acquiescence before the body’s silt.

8

Interstellar matter become dust, become
gas, become molecule.

9

Human distance registers no scale.

greenwich_meridian

“Human Distance” was published in Bindlestiff in summer 2016, and has also appeared on this blog.

Odi et amo (Zero)

zero sign

 

Odi et amo (zero)

How I fear what you contain.
Reaching through,

I find only more you,
but when I multiply your being,

the result limits me.
I add myself to your body and obtain

only myself. If nothing is something,
how, what, may I claim?

Your beginning and end, a line
become circle, become identity.

I enter, and entering, depart.

 

zero MGD©

“Odi et amo (Zero)” appeared on the blog in December 2015, and was published in The Basil O’Flaherty in October 2016.

Arthritis

photo(10)

Arthritis

If at night I stray in thought,
dreaming of nimble fingers

and my departed dog’s walk,
will you smile

when I scratch his absent ear
and apologize for the times

I failed him? Even combined,
all the words in these unread books

could never soothe the guilt
of leisure and complacency, nor

match the joy of jumping
for the kicked ball, no matter the

outcome, despite the consequences.

image

“Arthritis” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

My poem, “Imprisoned,” is up at Claudius Speaks

Stephanie L. Harper tells us it’s not the time to tie up loose ends!

SLHARPERPOETRY

Thank you to the editors at Claudius Speaks Journal for including my poem, “Imprisoned,” in their themed issue (IV), Flight! You can read this poem in full as it appears in my forthcoming chapbook, THIS BEING DONE (Finishing Line Press), below:

lock-and-key

Imprisoned

Now is not the time
for my fettered    titanium lines—

no time for me to claim
I know a thing or two about life
as if I were anyone’s keeper…

A “suicidally depressed” convict doing life for murder
petitioned my psychotherapist friend to treat him:

& so it was that with all the detached generosity
a wife & mother of three could muster     she rendered
a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder
even as his icy eyes ignited in her a germ of lust
that razed every trace of her in a sudden flush

Now is really not the time for idle moralizing
about prisoners     or locks…

View original post 65 more words

Scarecrow Pretends

scarecrowfield

Scarecrow Pretends

How may I claim another’s earth for myself? My perpetual
stance invites occlusion of the senses and a certain disregard
for dignity; I flap in the breeze and bits of me scatter across
the fields. Sze asks if we know a bird’s name in ten
languages do we know any more about the bird. I say no,
but I am a species of stitched remnants and expectation,
a race of one. Genderless, my hollow name holds no secrets,
no history. If I called myself Hudson would anyone recognize
my stuffing for what it is not? What flows through my clothing
but rags, straw, the useless and unwanted. Insects and their feces.
The unearned, the unwarranted. The underclass. Folly. Design.
Gift by delusion. Does attracting more crows than I deter negate
my existence? And which am I? A river? A man? An effigy, one
perception, or another? I do not frighten, but welcome. Speak
louder, that we may ignore our insignificance, our true names.

“Scarecrow Pretends” was published in The Slag Review in January 2017, and a few months later was mentioned in an article in the Long River Review’s blog: “Scarecrow Pretends: Robert Okaji’s Metallurgy.

 

 

Driving without Radio

trash-in-tree

 

Driving without Radio

One minute you’re sipping coffee at the stoplight,
and the next you find yourself six miles

down the road, wondering how you got there,
just two exits before the French bakery

and your favorite weekday breakfast taco stand.
Or while pondering the life of mud,

you almost stomp the brakes when a 40-year old
memory oozes in — two weeks before Thanksgiving,

the windshield icing over (inside), while most definitely
not watching the drive-in movie in Junction City, Kansas,

her warm sighs on your neck and ear, and the art
of opening cheap wine with a hairbrush. How many

construction barrels must one dodge to conjure these
delights, unsought and long misfiled? You turn right

on 29th Street and just for a moment think you’ve seen
an old friend, looking as he did before he died,

but better, and happier, and of course it’s just a trash bag
caught in a plum tree, waving hello, waving goodbye.

 

“Driving without Radio” was published at Split Rock Review in November 2016. Many thanks to editor Crystal Gibbins for providing a home for this one.

Bowls, Emptied

bowls

Bowls, Emptied

I picture them always separate, unfilled, never nested among the others.

In descending order: yellow, green, red. The missing blue.

Concave, hollow, hemispherical, freed of conscience.

Other images – the skies, denser with age.

You stirring with a wooden spoon, cigarette smoldering nearby.

Or the itinerant smell of new sod and wet soil.

My knee aches whenever I traverse stairs or turn quickly.

Which holds more grief, these vessels or memory’s lapse?

Inverted, their capacity remains constant as the heavens, dark or light.

The paling dome, a memory of freshly pulled onion.

Squatting, you would patiently pluck weeds.

I bite my tongue and kneel to place the flowers.

Near this stone, where the crickets chirr and dew worms burrow.

By this mound and these blades of near-silent grass.

Where I accept this moment’s offering. And you do not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Bowls, Emptied” first appeared on the blog in January 2016, and was subsequently published in Galway Review in December 2016.

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

Five White cat always made sure no rats gnawed my books.
— Mei Yao-ch’en

His brain is squirming like a toad.
— Jim Morrison

Standing by the water, the poet wonders if,
as in this dream, his dead dog and Five White

might seize the separate ends of a rope and blend
their tugs, matching highs and lows, growls and purrs,

with near stillness, dawn to dusk and back again,
always equal, sharing through death their love

of work and honor. He throws a small branch
and asks the dog’s ghost to fetch, but it remains

at his side, as if reluctant to leave. How to release
what you no longer hold? Shadows disappear in direct

light, but always return at its departure. The
raindrop remains intact through its long plummet.

Words, though unspoken, hang like lofted kites
awaiting a new wind, a separate rhythm,

beyond compassion. He cannot hear it
but joins his dog in singing. The cat yowls along.

 

This piece first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016, and was drafted during the August 2015 30-30 challenge. Thanks to Jeff Schwaner for providing the title (which I edited for publication).