Letter from Kansas

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I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing, and was republished by Silver Birch Press in 2017. The kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

 

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

 

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.

 

Tarantula

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Tarantula

The patience of stone, whose surface belies calm.
Neither warm nor cold, but unfeeling.

It digresses and turns inward, a vessel reversed
in course, in body, in function, the

outward notion separate but inclusive,
darkness expanding, the moist

earth crumbling yet holding its form:
acceptance of fate become

another’s mouth,
the means to closure and affirmation

driven not by lust nor fear
but through involuntary will.

Neither warm nor cold, but unfeeling.
The patience of stone.

 

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“Tarantula” first appeared here in February 2015.

 

Self-Portrait as Blemish

 

Self-Portrait as Blemish

Do not turn away. Stare at my impropriety
and accept the facts exposed: the mixed,
the blended, the unholy result of the extra-
legal conjoining. Or, that unconcealed
mark on the cheek, brown or black,
a pupil in the eye of the sack-clothed
target. Look closer. Ask your question.
I am the world inside the fermented
egg, the tacit accusation. What you choose
not to see. Feel my breath. Remember.

 

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.

 

Patience

  

Patience

How time collapses
even the longest
held dream – that

trip to Italy
or the stilted
studio to the

barn’s rear, or
even the first
book and its

publication to early
acclaim by age
forty, fifty, sixty…

 

“Patience” first appeared here in October 2018.

Self-Portrait with Blue

Blue

 

Self-Portrait with Blue

Darker shades contain black or grey. I claim
the median and the shortened spectrum, near dawn’s terminus.

In many languages, one word describes both blue and green.

Homer had no word for it.

The color of moonlight and bruises, of melancholy and unmet
expectation, it cools and calms, and slows the heart.

Woad. Indigo. Azurite. Lapis lazuli. Dyes. Minerals. Words. Alchemy. 

On this clear day I stretch my body on the pond’s surface and submerge.

Not quite of earth, blue protects the dead against evil in the afterlife, 
and offers the living solace through flatted notes and blurred 7ths.

Blue eyes contain no blue pigment.

In China, it is associated with torment. In Turkey, with mourning.

Between despair and clarity, reflection and detachment,
admit the leaves and sky, the ocean, the earth.

Water captures the red, but reflects and scatters blue.

Look to me and absorb, and absorbing, perceive.

 

This originally appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series, and is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press chapbook collection, IDESpublished in October 2015.

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Not Enough, Too Much

 

Not Enough, Too Much

Carved from silence, I return to it.
They say not enough, too much,
never to meet. My tongue craves salt,
flesh seasoned with longing and dust
and the burdens of two separate
exhaustions. They hand me sticks
and say eat. I dip the fork into the
bowl, and looking to the earth
see no roots, only brown feet
refused at the surface. They say
you are the vacant temple. I close
my eyes and sing, become that
unseen pity, that burnt green descent
withering in the lull of the moment before.

 

“Not Enough, Too Much” was published in the North Dakota Quarterly in February 2019.