Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

bureau

Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

Everything is nothing, but afterwards.
I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye
before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.

 

This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.

Vincent

Snow with Moose

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Snow with Moose

Guide to the incremental, to the sifted mass. The Phoenician mem shifted
shapes, but always suggested water.

Moose likely derives from the Algonquian descriptor “he strips away.”

The Japanese character for water, mizu, evokes currents.

Moose are solitary creatures and do not form herds. A bilabial consonant,
M is a primary sound throughout the world.

The prehensile upper lip undresses branches and grabs shoots.

Wavering, I share the lack of definition, of clarity in design and choice.

The sound is prevalent in the words for mother in many unrelated tongues,
from Hindi to Mandarin, Hawaiian to Quechua, and of course English.

Eleven strokes compose the Japanese character for snow.

A smile would reveal no upper front teeth.

Long legs enable adults to manage snow up to three feet deep. Under water,
individual flakes striking the surface sound similar, despite size disparities.

It can also accurately be classified as a mineral.

Solitude to connection, dark on white. The lone traveler.

moose

“Snow with Moose” first appeared here in December 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)”

Track (after Tranströmer)

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Track (after Tranströmer)

2 p.m.: Sunlight. The subway flows
beneath us. Flecks of darkness
shimmer madly on the wall.

As when a man cracks a window into a dream,
remembering everything, even
what never occurred.

Or after skimming the surface of good health,
all his nights become ash, billowing clouds,
strong and warm, suffocating him.

The subway never stops.
2 o’clock. Filtered sunlight, smoke.

* * *

I’ve been dipping into Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Robert Bly’s 1975 translations of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer, and I couldn’t resist playing with one of my favorite poems. A different darkness, a separate space, another landscape…

This first appeared here in April 2015.

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.

barb

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…

Thinking of Language

words

Yesterday, while avoiding the big rig frenzy on the wet highway, I heard a fascinating talk on NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Phuc Tran’s “Does the Subjunctive Have a Dark Side.” The idea of how one’s language, one’s grammar, can shape or affect a culture, has never been made so apparent to me as in this well articulated piece.

My poem, “From Left to Right I Ponder Politics and Kanji,” is up at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Month Celebration

kanji

My poem, “From Left to Right I Ponder Politics and Kanji,” is up at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Month Celebration. She’ll be presenting 28 poems following this year’s theme of “Neural Networks: The Creative Power of Language.” It’s been a fun, interesting month, with more to come.