Patterns

dead-dahlia(1)

Patterns

For one who moves in uncertainty, this
flower, the petals of which

gently fade, as if reason
is found in the decline of beauty
and its comforts.

But all you touch remains
touched. If silence reveals the body

of music, what can be said of darkness? Words
appear motionless until they blossom, a
pattern seldom seen yet carried to us in

all manner of conveyance. Listen,
for there is no purer voice.

Let the earth speak.

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“Patterns” first appeared here in March, 2015. I wrote it 30-some years ago, placed it in a folder and promptly forgot it.

The Fullness That Precedes

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The Fullness That Precedes

it is not
the moon but
rain that attracts

me to this
place no faint
light no shadow

but the fullness
that precedes its
history that of

magic from nothing
to nothing by
which one may

discern perfection a
cloud the solitary
note of distraction

 

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Written in the 80s, “The Fullness That Precedes” first appeared here in May 2015.

Door Harp

candle

Door Harp

tear-shaped or is
it the inviolable
form of the

candle’s flame ever
changing but constant
in its own

presence that being
momentary or fixed
as a loved

one’s death I
listen and hear
only three notes

each one solitary
and aloof yet
of one purpose

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Yet another piece from the eighties. It first appeared here in November 2015.

Self-Portrait with Shadow

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Self-Portrait with Shadow

Sometimes light reveals our thoughts.
Separate and unequal, we blend.

The predominant sibilant in English,
its pronunciation varies.

Sciaphobia is the fear of shadows. Last
winter the wellhead froze and we

chain-sawed our way to warmth,
synchronized in the fading light.

And which decides the other’s fate?
In the flame I detect new life, a hissing

in the cast iron box. Though ranked only 8th
in frequency of use, more words in English

begin with S, leaving additional questions.
Is hiss the opposite of shh?

The umbra is the darkest part
of the shadow, where light is completely

blocked. Not the serpent, but the bow
and a misperception. Shadows grow

in proportion to the distance
between the object blocking the light

and the projection surface. Resembling
infinity, yet missing the link. Two facets

of one darkness. A faint suggestion. Amphiscians
cast shadows in two directions. Or not at all.

This appeared on the blog in April 2015, and another version appeared in Otoliths in fall of 2013, but it appears that I’m not quite done with it. I’d been exploring our alphabet, tracing letters’ origins from hieroglyphs to present form, and attempting to merge some of those findings with disparate details. One of these days I’ll get back to it…

A Q&A and more successful examples of what I was trying to achieve can be found at Prime Number Magazine:

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N Is Its Child

 

N Is Its Child

If darkness produces all, from where do we obtain nothing?

As a line becomes the circle, becomes a mouth, becomes identity.

In mathematics, n signifies indefinite; in English, negation.

The no, the non, the withdrawal, the taking away.

A heart with trachea represented zero in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

My mouth forms the void through the displaced word.

Conforming to the absent, the missing tongue serves soundlessness.

Aural reduction, the infinite unclenched: n plus n.

Shiva, creator and destroyer, defines nothingness. As do you.

One and one is two, but zero and zero is stasis.

Pythagoreans believed that all is number, and numbers possess shape.

The letter N evolved from a cobra to its present form.

One may double anything but zero.

Unspoken thought, disorder. The attenuated voice swallowing itself.

 

* * *

N Is Its Child” was first published in Issue 4 of ReservoirI am grateful to editor Caitlin Neely for accepting this piece.

 

What Edges Hold

TorilCave

What Edges Hold

By which I mean those lines framed in certainty: the demarcation of sunlight and shadow. Kami signifies not spirit, but rather that force above man.

Never religion, but life itself: the mountains, trees, the rocks. Lightning.

Or waves, thundering off the coast, lured by the moon.

Stirring the water with a spear, Izanagi dripped an island into being.
Separate the ordinary through limitation, by practice, by ritual and space.

Another night in the twisted trees. The god-shelf.

Recognize that wind respects no borders.

Knowing that to the east questions may respond to answers I have long
suspected, I look elsewhere. After the vowel, the consonant. 

Though torii differ in style, each retains two posts and a crosspiece.

After the consonant, the winnowed tunnel, extinguished light.

At the gate, bow respectfully, then enter. Ladle water from right to left, 
then left to right. Pour it into your left hand, then cleanse your mouth.

Invert and regard the precipice.

I have placed one foot in their sphere. The other still searches.

This originally appeared in April 2014 as part of Boston Review‘s National Poetry Month Celebration.

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Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

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Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

The black-chinned hummer buzzes my flowered shirt,
bringing to mind the letter H, its history of an inferior life among

letters, and a Phoenician origin signifying fence.

An aspirate dependent upon others, or a line strung between posts,

even whispered, H does not contain itself.
Disconsolate or annoyed, the bird moves on.

Do names depend upon the power of symbols, or do they power the symbols?

In the 6th century A.D., Priscian disparaged H, saying it existed only to accompany.

Clouds shade the way.
The black-chin extends its grooved tongue at a rate of 15 licks per second.

Alone, the H’s voice is barely audible.

Through the trees, across the crushed rock driveway and beyond the barbed wire

and chain link, I hear deadfall snapping under hooves.
At rest, its heart beats an average of 480 beats per minute.

Modern Greek denies its existence.

Say khet, say honor and where. Say hinge, sigh and horse. Say depth.

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Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013,  it subsequently appeared here in June 2015.

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)”

This first appeared in May 2017.

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

sunrise

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

And discuss not the darkness of crows, but the structure of phonemes
embedded in our names, the gratitude of old fences, of broken

circles and extinguished flame.

Two weeks ago he poured wine and declared himself Dog.

There are roosters, too, who cannot crow,
other speechless men, and lonely burros guarding brush piles.

What letters form silence? From what shapes do we draw this day?

Light filters through the cedars and minutes retract,

as the bull’s horns point first this way, then that, lowering themselves
through the millennia, becoming, finally, A as we know it.

With my tongue, I probe the space emptied of tooth.

Barbed wire was designed to repel, but when cut sometimes curls

and grabs, relinquishing its hold only by force or careful negotiation.
Symbols represent these distinct units of sound.

My name is two houses surrounding an eye.

Yours consists of teeth, the bull, an arm, the ox goad.

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Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013, and posted here in September 2015. Cantinflas the donkey makes a cameo appearance in this poem…