Tuning the Beast


Tuning the Beast

I prepare contingencies for all outcomes. No.
I’ve prepared for this: a body. A key. As if

that cloth draped a leg. Not a leg
but the representation of a limb.

Another fragment, brought forth and opened.
Not a limb, an arrow, perhaps, pointing to the sea.

An oar, brought inland and unrecognized
for its purpose, directed or aimless. No, not an oar.

A neck, polished, and a chamber, with strings.
Repetition, fixation. Position. Intent.

I pluck and strum, pick and stroke, maintaining
space, steel above wood, bending notes,

moving sound in time, purposefully, from
this place to that, the left hand, creating,

conversing. The right, reasoning, controlling,
burning its past to the present, allowing,

preventing, rendering beat, consistent
motion, shaping only this moment, this now.

“Tuning the Beast” was drafted during the August 2015 30-30 Challenge, thanks to Sunshine Jansen’s sponsorship. It subsequently appeared in The Blue Nib in September 2016.

 

 

A Word is Not a Home

  

A Word is Not a Home

A word is not a home
but we set our tables

between its walls,
cook meals, annoy

friends, abuse ourselves.
Sometimes I misplace

one, and can’t find
my house, much less

the window’s desk
or the chair behind it.

But if I wait, something
always takes form in the fog,

an arm, a ribcage, a feathered
hope struggling to emerge.

Inept, I take comfort
in these apparitions,

accept their offerings,
lose myself in mystery,

find shelter there
in the hollowed curves.

Palinode (Hands, Hours, Light)

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P A L I N O D E ( H A N D S , H O U R S , L I G H T)

Consider the hand, its breadth, its history in mathematics and limitation. 27 bones, two strokes. Distal phalanges spanning gaps.  You turn and wave at the winnowed tunnel and the drops feathering the glass. The sinister endures tasks of life; right blesses power and assuages guilt. Presuming inflection, I use both hands to tally the absent. Later as we drive through the checkpoint, our way greased by fluency in the language of coin, heaven’s oblique arch recedes and I praise the passage of hours.

I praise the passage of hours measured in terms unknown to some: beyond two, many. Returning, we see streets guided by lampposts, bent trees and the uneven drizzle of sidewalk mendicants blurring through their days. A hanged man’s dessicated hand (pickled in salt and the urine of man, woman, dog and mare) forms the Hand of Glory, unlocking any portal the bearer desires opened: a direct tool of consciousness. Lacking the fat of a gibbeted felon, I cannot properly light the way.

I cannot properly light the way, but we  observe facets in differing terms: the hand, lips, and mouth claim more neural innervation than the rest of the body combined, perhaps a consequence of the primacy of making and sounding. Candles smolder and yield to shadow through dancing hand stories. The wave of acknowledgment, a finger across the lips, the open hand proclaiming innocence, expressing, grasping, creating, constraining, releasing. Extinguishing.

This first appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos, Issue 11.

 
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Scarecrow Sees

Scarecrow Sees

Da Vinci maintained that sight relies on the eye’s
central line, yet the threads holding my
ocular buttons in place weave through four
holes and terminate in a knot. My flying friends
perceive light in a combination of four colors,
unlike the farmer, who blends only three. The
octopus knows black and white but blushes
to escape predators, while I remain fixed,
evading no one. Certainly my sense is more
vision than sight, and not the result of nerve
fibers routing light. Crows choose colors
when asked, but a certain shade of yellow
eludes them. And who would hear, above
the flock’s clamor, my claim to see this world
as it is? Grayscale, monochrome, visual
processing and perceptual lightness measures
mean little to one whose space accumulates
in uncertain increments – what is a foot to an
empty shoe? If I painted, which hues would
prefer my attempts, which would distract or
invade my cellulosic cortex, resulting in
fragmentation or blindness? Fear is not
limited to the sighted alone. I look out over
the field and perceive the harmonious
interaction of soil and root, leaf and sun,
the beauty of atmospheric refraction and
the wonder sprouting daily around me. Then
as one entity the crows explode into the blue,
leaving me alone with the shivering stalks,
questioning my place and purpose, awaiting
the next stray thought, a spark, a lonely
word creeping through this day’s demise.

This was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge, and was published by The High Window in December 2016.

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

Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine

snow

Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine (after Hokusai)

Who knows where bird
begins and tree

ends,

which branch shifts
snow, which bears

eternity. This, too, will share

joy,
elusive green

and breath,
with no thought

of flight

and night’s
fall.

* * *

“Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine” is included in my forthcoming chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, which is available for pre-publication order until August 11.

The poem first appeared in Panoply in summer, 2016, and was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Many thanks to editors Ryn Holmes, Jeff Santosuosso and Andrea Walker for this honor, my first such nomination.

See the woodblock print that sparked this poem: Hokusai

crane