I’ve two poems up at Defuncted, a journal dedicated to reprinting pieces from defunct publications. All too often our work simply disappears when a publication ceases operating, so I’m particularly grateful to editor Roo Black for providing writers with the opportunity to rejuvenate their work.
Summer 1966: After France & Remembering Bobby,
Who One Day Would Learn to Multiply and Divide,
Write Love Poems, Define Home, Fight Unfairly and
Live with as Much Gusto as a 7-Year Old. Perhaps.
From left coast to right, or the wide arc between,
which place claimed you? In New York you marveled
at the building’s backs scratched by clouds, and all your
pale cousins in Baltimore spoke strangely and couldn’t fathom
your nuclear family’s private lingo, while the drive to Texas
and its red ants and iced tea blossomed into adventures between
pages in the back seat of the VW bug. By the second week you
learned that Texans sweat as much as the French, and swear even
more, that you couldn’t fight one twin without taking on the other,
sometimes both at once. There was no question of fairness then,
just brotherhood, but the librarian would slip you the choicest
donated fiction, and you played baseball every day in the vacant lot
until sundown called the players home to black and white body
counts and cigarette commercials on the three channels received.
Sometimes you lay in bed under the half-light of the whirring
fan blades, and dreamt of heroes and ornithopters, zebras
and the scent of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Other nights
you wondered how words could rest so calmly on one page yet
explode off the next, or why a man would climb a tower in Austin
to kill fourteen people when opportunities for mayhem and murder
burgeoned across the sea. Wasn’t living a matter of simple
subtraction? One by one the days parted and you walked through
that dwindling heat, eyes squinting, questions in hand, emerging
fifty years later having suffered additions and division and the
cruelties of love and success, honor and truth, still asking why
and how, home or house, where it went, your shoulders slumping
under the heft of those beautiful, terrible summers stacked high
like so many life-gatherings of unread books awaiting a bonfire.
This was first published in theSilver Birch Press “Moving” series, and an earlier version titled “Bonjour, Texas” appeared on the blog A Holistic Journey.
Something Lost, Something Trivial
Another word, another bewildered
moment in transition: the phrase
barely emerges from your mouth
before crumbling back into a half-opened
drawer in the loneliest room of a house
that died seventeen years ago.
I nod as if in understanding, and stoop
to pick up a crushed drinking straw,
the kind with the accordion elbow
that facilitates adjustment.
From a rooftop across the street,
a mockingbird warbles his
early morning medley of unrelated
songs, and you say left oblique,
followed by matches, then
collapse on a bench,
winded. I sit next to you
and we both enjoy the warmth
and birdsong, though I know
this only through the uplifted
corner of your mouth, which
these days is how you indicate
either deep pleasure or
fear. I have to leave soon,
I say, and you grab my wrist
and stare into my eyes.
Broom, you reply. And more
Though I cannot follow you
directly, knowing both path
and destination, I pick my way
carefully through the years
stacked high like cardboard
banker’s boxes stuffed with
papers and receipts no one
will ever see. I know, I say.
I love you, too. Broom.
* * *
“Something Lost, Something Trivial” was published in January 2016 in the first issue of MockingHeart Review. Many thanks to editor Clare L. Martin, for her multiple kindnesses. I am reading with Clare and Bessie Senette on Saturday, October 20, at 7:00 p.m. at Malvern Books in Austin.
Truchas (Elevation 8,000 Feet)
in dry air,
and a ratcheting
heart rate, up,
out, and through
into the pale glow.
I spent a glorious four days in New Mexico, in the company of poets. The Tupelo Press Truchas Conference outdid itself again.
I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs
I got drunk once and woke in Korea
with you watching over me.
Odd, how you spend seasons looking
down, and I, up. If I lived in a cloud,
could you discern me from the other
particles? Perhaps your down is
peripheral, or left, or non-directional. I can
fathom this without measuring scope,
yet I feel queasy about the possibility
of being merely one vaporous drop
coalescing among others, unnamed
and forgettable, awaiting the particular
atmospheric conditions to plummet to my
fate. As if we control our own gravities!
One winter I grilled pork tenderloin under
your gaze, unaware that the grass
around me had caught fire, and when I
unwound the hose and turned on the
faucet you laughed, as the hose wasn’t
connected and only my feet were
extinguished. Dinner was delayed
that evening, but I praised you just the same.
I look up, heedless in the stars’ grip, unable
to retrace all those steps taken to this here,
now, but still you sway above the branches,
sighing, lighting my path, returned once
again, even if not apparent at all times. Every
star signals a departure. Each is an arrival.
* * *
“I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs” was published in Sourland Mountain Review in January 2017.
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.
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.
The events in this poem took place five years ago. Life is good.