Drawer of Possibilities

 

Drawer of Possibilities

In the drawer of possibilities
you find stasis, the lure of the unknown.
To what should this hinged orb
be subservient? Or that wrinkled blade?
An egg, the bald potato. The sacrificial
carrot? To everything its purpose.
Like that light in the crook of the
altered frame, attracting the winged
beings. You, of course, serve nothing.

 

 

“Drawer of Possibilities” first appeared in The New Reader in March 2018.

 

Sunday, June

 

Sunday, June

Trying to give, I fail too often.
But this day we prepare for you
food that your beloved often cooked,
made with the ingredients of 19,000
nights and promises of more to come.
These potatoes. That beef, the fruit.
Simple, and yet so difficult to reproduce.
Even the recipe is incomplete. “Some
mayonnaise,” it says, then “mustard,”
but not whether dry or prepared, and
the amount is unclear. Yet the results
transport you to stronger days, to
the clear-eyed self and limitless
possibilities, meals on the table
at five o’clock, the satisfaction of work
well done, knowing that you have soared
above your father’s imprecations
but never beyond love’s touch, her
sleepy murmurs, morning coffee,
burnished histories and late cigarettes,
the tulips on the soil you’ll soon share.

 

“Sunday, June” first appeared in the print journal Nourish in March 2018.

Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon

Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon

Dear Stephanie: No one connects here, and no matter
how resolutely we trudge forward, ignoring spinal fusions
and attacking hearts, the line skips lightly ahead, mocking us,
I think, in that way only the ineffable may claim. Looking
out, I see a lone wren, clouds filtering the stars, and strands
of barbed wire looped like question marks around cedar
stumps, punctuating the day’s greeting. No answers there,
only more inquiries blanching under the sun. But this
is my febrile landscape, not your lush green headed by
gray. Nothing matters, or, everything’s imperative.
In this gnarled season I can’t tell which, although
the vulture ripping into a squirrel carcass on my
suburban front lawn tells me something ain’t quite
right. Full or empty, the glass is still a glass, despite
my propensity for seeking more, whether cava or beer
or yes, enlightenment. I fear this reveals too much
about me, and wonder if I should draw the shade or
keep tugging it higher, admitting more light. Have you
ever noticed that half often amounts to less the closer
you get to it, each portion diminishing, divided by two,
and again, until only a thin shadow vaguely resembling
the original shape remains? Perhaps this is how we’re
meant to exit as failures on this field. The horizon’s
still there, red stroking green, clouds feathering in,
and maybe if we keep walking we’ll reach it in a sunburst
of doves and glittering red dahlias. Yeah, right. In the
meantime, let’s multiply our losses and sculpt another
morning truer than its source, stronger than its media. Our
optimism has already blown this joint. What else have we
got to lose? I remain, as ever, yours in insolence, Bob.

Originally penned in January 2017, “Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon” was published in MockingHeart Review in May 2018.

Insomnia

 

Insomnia

Lying awake
at two in the morning,

wondering
how a dog would suffer

sleeplessness –
silently, or with little

growls and snuffles,
scratching at its

padded bed
in exasperation,

circling, turning
back, again.

I roll to the left,
then to the right,

and flat on my back,
groaning at the pain

in my hip and the anger
of the day’s impending

bull on my shoulders,
and the looming

banshee cry
of that damned alarm.

Bamboo Flute

 

Bamboo Flute

I am studying simplicity
in the way a rattlesnake
watches a field mouse,

which means of course
that I am doing it all wrong
and making this much more

difficult. Today’s lesson
is humility: I achieve no
tone from this damn bamboo

flute, no matter how I adjust
my mouth and wind. Go
watch football
, the voices

say. Instead I go to the grocery,
buy my wife’s favorite
wine, and later pour her

a glass and offer Irish cheddar
with rice crackers and a few
grapes. I sip beer, pick up

the flute, and sound a
wavering D followed by a goose
fart and spitting hamsters.

Progress, at last! Now
back to the lesson. Relax.
I’m nailing this simplicity thing.

 

* * *

“Bamboo Flute” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.

The Gift

The Gift 

What lasts longer than ink
or stone or a pond’s ripple?

I want to give you
the deepest green.

Memory circles back,
highways turn

to dirt, the dead blossom
in children’s voices.

Place this carnation in a vase.
Swallow these pills.

Don’t move, don’t speak.
Let me do this.

“The Gift” was first published in Brave Voices in January 2019.Many thanks to Audrey Bowers and her editorial staff for taking this piece.

Self-Portrait as Wave

 

Self-Portrait as Wave

Feeling limited, I succumb to surge,
disperse, reassemble, return
in the calming swirl. Nothing
resembles me. I relinquish this piece,
retain that, and reinforced,
reside in the whorl, swollen,
winnowed to a point and capped,
roar and rumble, shredded,
whole yet apart, a solitary
fist crashing through another
watery torso in response, in
resonance, again, again.

 

 

“Self-Portrait as Wave” was first published in the inaugural issue of Kissing Dynamite. Many thanks to editor Christine Taylor for taking this piece.

 

 

Another Bird, Rising

Another Bird, Rising

The shadow behind you slides over
the ceiling, up and gone,

a wingless silence. The drafted swirl.
One morning shifts into two, and still

you won’t give in, each moment’s
gasp another one earned, a measurable

notch on the table’s edge, quarters
in the magic purse. They all count.

Pills, chemo, radiation. Ocean to sky.
Houses to ash. Your eyes see black.

“Another Bird, Rising” first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016.

Inscrutable

 

Inscrutable

The river fills her body

like handwriting on a scrap
folded into a book
and found years later.

No one reads that language.

Undiscovered,
she remains closed, cleansed,

awaiting interpretation.

 

 

* * *

“Inscrutable” was first published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of Ink in Thirds. Thank you, Grace Black, for taking this piece!

 

 

As the Gravy Flows

 

As the Gravy Flows

Viscosity is always a consideration, as is definition:
traditionally a sauce composed of meat juices and
thickeners, or, a sediment of melted tallow, which
somehow brings to mind a laborer rising early after
a hard night, eating red-eye, made of fried ham
drippings and coffee, served over grits. Or perhaps
an egg gravy – a béchamel sauce flavored by bacon,
with water and milk, and an egg – ladled over butter-
rubbed biscuits. But then I picture my vegetarian
friends pushing away from plates of this fine repast,
and not wishing to deny them or those following a vegan
lifestyle, we turn to roasted vegetables with broth, oils
and wine and a savory yeast extract. But I can’t fathom
a life without giblet gravy, which features the neck and
offal of fowl, including the liver, the taste of which may
be too strong for other recipes using giblets, an interesting
word in itself, from the Old French for a game-bird stew,
and the Middle English meaning of an inessential
appendage, or entrails, morphing to garbage. I would
never throw out an onion gravy, essentially a thick sauce
of slow-cooked onion and stock or wine, and admit to
having tasted a cream version with the consistency and
flavor of diluted paste, indicating a lack of balance in
flavor and poor roux-making technique. My favorite
would be an Italian-American buddy’s gravy, his word
for a rich ragù of sausage, braised beef and shredded
pork, red wine, tomatoes and herbs, served over pasta.
This of course stretches the definition of the word, but
language is elastic, is it not? So it flows, as does the gravy.

 

“As the Gravy Flows” was drafted during the August 2016 30/30 Challenge. Thank you to Lady Phoenix for sponsoring the poem and providing the title!