Self-Portrait with Umeboshi (with recording)

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Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.

 

Ah, simplicity! When I was a child my mother would occasionally serve rice balls in which a single mouth-puckering umeboshi rested at the center. These have long been a favorite, but I admit that umeboshi might be an acquired taste. Commonly called “pickled plums,” ume aren’t really plums but are more closely related to apricots. I cherish them.

“Self-Portrait with Umeboshi” first appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series (August 2014), was included in the subsequent print anthology, Self-Portrait Poetry Collection, and also appears in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

 

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Music: “Senbazuru” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shadow (with Recording)

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

 

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

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Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

Yellow, Lost (with recording)

 

 

Yellow, Lost

The forgotten poem, existing in title only: Yellow.

Which is a bruise at three weeks, or memory’s shade in autumn.

In what black folder does it hide? In which blinding light?

I take comfort in primaries, lose sleep at the edges.

Where fraying begins and annotation dwindles to scrawled lines.

Above the bones and flesh of the Egyptian gods. Above my books.

Within these lost minutes. Those moons, bereaved. The hours.

Desire germinates even after our rainless decades. Yellow, again.

The color of sulfur (the devil’s realm) or the traitor’s door.

Of cowardice and warning. Of aging and decay.

How to recover what’s sifted away, the residue of our loves?

Each day more bits break off, never to be reattached.

But you, I blend with the sky, perfecting trees, the grass.

 

* * *

“Yellow, Lost” was published in wildness, Issue no. 10, in October 2017. wildness is an imprint of Platypus Press, which published my work Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, in December 2016 in their 2412 series. If you’re not familiar with wildness, check it out. In fall 2016 Poets & Writers named it in their article Nine New Lit Mags You Need to Read.

 

Ode to Bacon (with recording)

Ode to Bacon

How you lend
yourself
to others,

enhancing even
the sweetest fig
in your embrace
over coals,

or consider
your rendered
self, how it

deepens flavor
with piggish
essence, coating

or absorbed,
blended or
sopped. O belly
of delight, o wonder
of tongues,

how could I not
love you
and your infinite
charms, even

when you resist
my efforts and
shoot sizzling bits

of yourself
onto my naked
hands? I pay

this toll
gladly,
today and

next year
and all those
days to follow,

till the last piece
is swallowed
and our sun
goes dark.

Hyperbole
becomes you,
smoked beauty,
salted love,

and I shall never
put you down
or leave you
behind

on a plate
to be discarded
or forgotten,

unloved.

“Ode to Bacon” first appeared here in July 2017, thanks to T.S. Wright’s challenge.

Magic (with recording)

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Magic 

You give me nothing to hold, and for this
are blessed. Devotion

is a mirror and breath, one
solid and illusory, the other
needed yet expelled, taken, dispersed.
Which begs another question
not relying on tricks.

“Who traces names on the sheets?” you ask.

I roll up my sleeves and say “Words
conceal what the glass cannot.”

Source becomes deed, becomes habit.
In your hand a stone, a dove, the unbroken ring.

* * *

“Magic” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, and was first published in Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art.

Scarecrow Considers the Afterlife (with recording)

Scarecrow and Friends

 

Scarecrow Considers the Afterlife

Gathering threads, I join them with a central
knot, producing a sunburst flower or constellation
of ley lines spreading forth and connecting their
tenuous truths – megalith to fjord, solstice to
dodmen and feng shui, suppositions entwined
and spat out. And who’s to say which alignment
stands taller than the next, which rut, which energy,
defines our direction? When I cease to be, will I
remain or dissipate, return in another form or
explode and scatter throughout the universe, the
residue of me sizzling along the starways for eternity
or perhaps just the next twenty minutes. It is clear
that I possess no heart, no internal organs. My spine
is lattice, my skin, fabricated from jute. Eviscerate
me and straw will tumble out. I do not bleed. Yet
the crows consult me in secret and conduct their
daily mercies, and I think and dance and dream
and wonder and hope. Oh, what I hope.

 

* * *

This was first published at Eclectica in July 2016, with two companion pieces.

When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

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When to Say Goodbye

 If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers

while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago

I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting

precedes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after

another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.

Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not

one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her

father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.

I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.

In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.

 

* * *

 

“When to Say Goodbye,” drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, was published by Oxidant | Engine in May 2017, and subsequently nominated for a Best of the Net 2017 award.

 

Helsinki (with recording)

Helsinki

Helsinki

An editor said never start a poem at a window,
so instead I’m looking at the door,

which is made of glass. We are to avoid rain,
too, but it streaks the pane in such delicious

patterns that I can’t help but pretend to be someone else
in a foreign city, perhaps Helsinki, sipping black coffee

with a mysterious woman younger than my daughter
(who also does not exist), whose interests

in me are purely literary, although she straightens
my collar with lingering, scented fingers. Garden

memories and birds must never populate our lines,
but corpses are fine, as are tube tops and bananas

and any combination thereof. I finish my coffee
and wander alone through cobblestone streets,

stepping over clichés when possible, kicking them
aside when my hip joint argues, or simply accepting

their useful limitations when nothing else works.
Unknown and lacking credentials, I shrug, go on

past the closed doors behind which unseen bodies
perform the most bizarre and sensual solo dances,

or not, and shadows cook sausages over fire
and the grease spattering onto the tiled counters

issues a fragrance that awakens neighborhood dogs
and maybe a dozing stall-keeper at the market

where cloudberries are sometimes found.
I know little of Finland, and less of myself,

and then there’s poetry, which remains a blank
frame, a frosted pane I’ll never truly unlatch.

* * *

My poem “Helsinki” was first published at Panoply. It was inspired in part by a Facebook thread on which editors commented on what caused them to instantly reject poems. One said beginning a poem at a window was cause for rejection. Hence the first line.

The Draft (with recording)

 

The Draft

All memories ignite, he says, recalling
the odor of accelerants and charred

friends. Yesterday I walked to the sea
and looking into its deep crush

sensed something unseen washing
out, between tides and a shell-cut foot,

sand and the gull’s drift, or the early names
I assign to faces. This is not sadness.

Somewhere the called numbers meet.

 

* * *

“The Draft” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.

His Softness (with recording)

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His Softness

What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water

that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,

and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me

fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away

and still breathing. How
may I honor you

if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how

umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading

in the weekly newspaper
a month after

that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,

somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with

the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,

can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.

 

.* * *

“His Softness” was published in January 2016 in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review.