Order Link to My New Chapbook

 

The publication date for My Mother’s Ghost Scrubs the Floor at 2 a.m. is fast approaching (May 5). Despite the pandemic, Indianapolis has been very welcoming. Many thanks to Kevin McKelvey and all the Indianapolis University students at Etchings Press who worked to bring this book to light.

 

 

Emptying Haibun

 

Emptying Haibun

Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.

exhaling, I note

smudges in the sky —

oh, dirty window

 

Hey, I’ve Won a Chapbook Contest!

thistle

I’m delighted to report that I’ve been named the winner of the 2021 Etchings Press Poetry prize! The publication date for My Mother’s Ghost Scrubs the Floor at 2 a.m. is May 5. Etchings Press, a student-run publisher at University of Indianapolis, is offering copies for $10.00

Many thanks to the Etchings Press staff, and to The Indianapolis Review editor Natalie Solmer for publishing the title poem in fall 2019, and subsequently nominating it for a Pushcart Prize. My new home, Indianapolis, has been very kind to me!

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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.

 

file0001977442406

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

Countdown #1: My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

 

My last five posts of 2020 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

 

 

My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar

Blue-tinted and red-mouthed, you light a cigarette
that glows green between your lips and smells of
menthol and old coffins, burnt fruit and days carved

into lonely minutes. I mumble hello, and because
you never speak, order a tulip of double IPA, which the
bartender sets in front of me. Longing to ask someone

in authority to explain the protocol in such matters,
I slide it over, but of course you don’t acknowledge
the act. The bartender shrugs and I munch on spiced

corn nuts. I wish I could speak Japanese, I say, or cook
with chopsticks the way you did. We all keep secrets, but
why didn’t you share your ability to juggle balls behind

your back sometime before I was thirty? And I still
can’t duplicate that pork chili, though my yaki soba
approaches yours. You stub out the cigarette and immediately

light another. Those things killed you, I say, but what the hell.
As always, you look in any direction but mine, your face
an empty corsage. What is the half-life of promise, I ask. Why

do my words swallow themselves? Who is the grandfather
of loneliness? Your outline flickers and fades until only a trace
of smoke remains. I think of tea leaves and a Texas noon,

of rice balls and the vacuum between what is and what
could have been, of compromise and stubbornness and love,
then look up at the muted tv, grab your beer, and drink.

 

* * *

 

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

 

This Turning

turning

 

This Turning

what one says
depends not on
words the wind

begins it does
not end but
lends itself to

an end this
turning may be
an answer the

sound of intent
so concealed a
word displayed is

only a word
not an end
nor the beginning

 

magnets

Another oldie from the eighties. It seems that even my poetry was thinner then.

Pain (Haibun)

Pain

Pain reminds me that I’m breathing, still able to appreciate the fragrance of French roast coffee brewing, the diced red pepper, onion and jalapeño mixture sizzling in the pan. Today is a good day. When I roll out the dough for the onion tart, the leg barely protests, and as I sip ginger tea while the tart bakes, no throb interrupts my pleasure.

Sometimes the hip shocks me with its barbed lance attack, or the knee rasps “not today, sonny,” and I grimace, concentrate on deliberate forward movement, one short step followed by another, into the kitchen or down the steps to the shack.

Music soothes, as does poetry, but occasionally the weight of the guitar is more than the leg can bear. Still, when I manage to lose myself in a tune or a few phrases, I drift in their currents, weightless, free.

Oh, to climb that hill
among those lost maples
Look — my shoe’s untied

* * *

“Pain” first appeared in The Zen Space in July 2018.

Bonsai

Bild

 

Bonsai

no feature enhanced
but beauty of
the whole and

its container the
tree is not
deprived and grows

as it must
though slowly like
a wave which

gathers itself for
years there is
no completion only

process a lapse
which presumes the
most delicate design

 

Asia_tree240000

Originally published in Aileron in 1988, “Bonsai” first appeared on the blog in December 2014.

 

 

My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar

Blue-tinted and red-mouthed, you light a cigarette
that glows green between your lips and smells of
menthol and old coffins, burnt fruit and days carved

into lonely minutes. I mumble hello, and because
you never speak, order a tulip of double IPA, which the
bartender sets in front of me. Longing to ask someone

in authority to explain the protocol in such matters,
I slide it over, but of course you don’t acknowledge
the act. The bartender shrugs and I munch on spiced

corn nuts. I wish I could speak Japanese, I say, or cook
with chopsticks the way you did. We all keep secrets, but
why didn’t you share your ability to juggle balls behind

your back sometime before I was thirty? And I still
can’t duplicate that pork chili, though my yaki soba
approaches yours. You stub out the cigarette and immediately

light another. Those things killed you, I say, but what the hell.
As always, you look in any direction but mine, your face
an empty corsage. What is the half-life of promise, I ask. Why

do my words swallow themselves? Who is the grandfather
of loneliness? Your outline flickers and fades until only a trace
of smoke remains. I think of tea leaves and a Texas noon,

of rice balls and the vacuum between what is and what
could have been, of compromise and stubbornness and love,
then look up at the muted tv, grab your beer, and drink.

* * *

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

RO

Ro

When this note fades
will it join you in that place
above the sky
or below the waves
of the earth’s plump
body? Or will it
circle back, returning to
my lips and this
hollow day
to aspire again?

 

 

Note: Ro designates the fingering required to produce a particular note on the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute. In this case, closing all holes.