above water, many dipping
to the surface to lay eggs,
some submerging, while
others die unfulfilled,
eaten. Who’s to say
which life burns brighter;
even knowing these facts,
still I dream of flight.
“Mayflies” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. It was also the inspiration for the artwork gracing the cover. I am in debt to Stephanie L. Harper for providing such a vivid and appropriate piece of art for the book. Available at Amazon.Com and Here
One might claim a double victory, or after the Roman Empire’s fall, a reclamation
from the slurred “b” and its subsequent reduction.
Survival of the rarely heard, of the occipital’s impulse.
The oak’s crook performs a similar function.
Shielding myself from adjuration, I contemplate the second family
root, weighted in weapons, in Woden, in wood.
Not rejection, but acceptance in avoidance.
The Japanese homophone, daburu, bears a negative connotation.
Original language was thought to be based on a natural
relation between objects and things.
Baudelaire’s alphabet existed without “W,” as does the Italian.
The recovery of lost perfection is no longer our aim.
When following another, I often remain silent.
As in two, as in answer, as in reluctance, reticence.
We share halves – one light, one shadowed, but both of water.
Overlapped or barely touching, still we complete.
* * *
“Self-Portrait with W” originally appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait series in 2014, and was reprinted in my chapbook, The Circumference of Other, included in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.
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.
How may I claim another’s earth for myself? My perpetual
stance invites occlusion of the senses and a certain disregard
for dignity; I flap in the breeze and bits of me scatter across
the fields. Sze asks if we know a bird’s name in ten
languages do we know any more about the bird. I say no,
but I am a species of stitched remnants and expectation,
a race of one. Genderless, my hollow name holds no secrets,
no history. If I called myself Hudson would anyone recognize
my stuffing for what it is not? What flows through my clothing
but rags, straw, the useless and unwanted. Insects and their feces.
The unearned, the unwarranted. The underclass. Folly. Design.
Gift by delusion. Does attracting more crows than I deter negate
my existence? And which am I? A river? A man? An effigy, one
perception, or another? I do not frighten, but welcome. Speak
louder, that we may ignore our insignificance, our true names.
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.
Even in death she scraps the easy path, choosing thorns and rocks
over blossoms and a groomed walkway. On hands and knees,
scouring the floor with ghost water and a scrub brush made of ancient
thistles, her pale figure flares yellow in the kitchen. Mom, you don’t have to do this, I say. You’re dead, and besides, I have a swiffer in the garage. I can almost hear her humming a Ray Charles
song from an album back in the sixties, and I notice that the water
in the transparent bucket remains clear and at the same level no matter
how often she dips into it. What do you say to one who never replies?
We’ve long splashed through that puddle of contention, and though
wary of repetition’s erosive qualities, I resort to ritual, drop a piece of kombu into a pot of water, bring it to a boil, remove it from the heat,
sift in a handful of dried bonito flakes and a few drops of soy sauce,
stirring it a few times. Then I strain the liquid, spoon in some miso,
add chopped green onion and a few cubes of tofu. I ladle this into two
black and red laquer bowls and set them on opposite sides of the table.
Hours later, the glow from the kitchen has faded, but I fidget and lie
awake, pain pulsing from hip to knee, and wonder if surgery is impending,
whether I should hire someone to temporarily mow the grass. How do
we reconcile reality with desire, with emotional drought and flood-swollen
creeks and the inability to draw together those things we desire most?
In the morning the floor is still dirty and the soup is where I’d left it,
at the sharp edge separating table from space, another stuttering symbol,
cold and unappetizing, smelling faintly of fish and muddy water.
“My Mother’s Ghost Scrubs the Floor at 2 a.m.” first appeared in The Indianapolis Review, and was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
I wrote this two years ago, a week after my father died. Many of us are mourning today, with more to follow. COVID-19 doesn’t care.
I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.
With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.
Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.
If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to quiver, but only the tiniest edge emerges. I am nothing, I say. I am voice, I am loss, I am name. I am memory. I am son.
I have fifty-nine years
and no wisdom to show for it.
Never enough. Too much.