The Simplest Coercion

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The Simplest Coercion

Each portrait betrays a similar
attraction: faces

swallowed by the artist’s
eye, his sight being

beyond optic, that assumption
inherent in every expression

but one. Yet this, the self-
portrait, reveals a hint

of secrets – an unwillingness
to confront,

the simplest coercion.

 

* * *

 

Another piece from the 80s…

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This first appeared on the blog in May 2015.

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

 

The Real Question

 

The Real Question 

I ask myself why I mourn
what has not yet

occurred. Will that last fledgling
fly or will a snake swallow

its gravity before descending
to a separate end? Coffee

darkens the carafe and an egg
poaches amidst the scent of basil.

Sprinkling parmesan on buttered
toast, I wonder where to unearth

the real question, when to look
into its eye. How to read its grief.

 

 

“The Real Question” was first published in After the Pause in June 2019. Thank you, Michael Prihoda, for accepting this piece.

Self-Portrait as Never

 

Self-Portrait as Never

Within the unknown or could-have-been,
this stance requires certainty, the ability
to stand upright, rooted, implacable,
relentless in the isand the noin time.
I dream of faith, despite knowing its
secrets. Atoms swarm, seed heads explode.
Rivers reverse, the galaxy rots, and at the
center, we fold our arms across our chests
and deny or accept at whim, leaving behind
no footprints, only lost words, some dust.

 

“Self-Portrait as Never” was first published in After the Pause in June 2019. Thank you, Michael Prihoda, for accepting this piece.

Still Life with Silence

 

stump 


Still Life with Silence

Not two, but one,
invisible

and stretched between
stump and fence,

filled with
time, defining

implication. Empty
the pitcher. Accept

its limitations.
Listen to what is not.

 

pitcher

“Still Life with Silence” first appeared here in October 2016.

 

 

Thunderstorm Below the Mountain

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Thunderstorm Below the Mountain
(after Hokusai)

Lacking humility, I take without thinking.
How far we’ve come, to look below for
lightning, the valleys shaken
with thunder, answers

like pebbles flung outward,
each to its own arc, separate
yet of one source, shaded into the question.

Is it for the scarcity of reach,
the reverse view through the bamboo rings
well out of sight, that

breath in the wave’s tuck or
smoke mingling with the clouds
and figures collecting salt,

that I edge myself closer, again,
to this place? To be nothing
presumes presence in absence.
Lacking humility, I accept without thinking.

 

image

“Thunderstorm Below the Mountain” first appeared here in March 2016.

 

Landscape with Jar

 

 

Landscape with Jar
(after Wallace Stevens)

What vanishes more readily than the breakable
and transparent? Not here, not now, it says,

never voluble in the morning. I have work.
The horizon exists simply in perception.

Try to touch it – the hill meets the sky
only from afar, offering discordance

up close, no measurement possible.
And among the trees and vines, a glimmer

of spite, twisted open. Moving closer, we see
through. We see rocks, a bird. We see air.

 

 

“Landscape with Jar” was first published in Birch Gang Review in July 2017.