Uccello

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Uccello

the wind is what
the stillness
desires to say
each instant
collapsing into itself
like a bud
returning
to the seed

listen
the birds in my tree
are silent
as echoes
before their brief
lives are
silent

something thrashes
in the leaves
the feather
spiraling
slowly
is not only what
it is

as the candle
is more
than flame
or a moment

curling
to darkness

the question
is of clarity

I built a frame
but placed
nothing in it

the wind
blows through
quietly as if
between silences
there exists
only silence or

light
the familiar embrace

unfolding

 

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Originally published in 1987 in a short-lived publication called The Balcones Review, this is the opening of a longer work. When I last looked out my window at that same tree, I heard the birds, no longer silent.

 

Diverting Silence

 

Diverting Silence

Wren canyons down the morning’s edge, proclaiming dawn.
Unpapered, unfettered, fearless, he abides.

I say “he,” but sexual dimorphism is not apparent in the species.
Accepting signals, we process and choose, freighting gender aside.

Listening requires contextual interpretation, as does belief.
Shrilling to the porch screen, he spears a moth, veers outward.

An acquaintance claims birds are soulless, existing only to serve God.
As temple bells exist solely to announce, and rain, to water lawns.

Faith’s immensity looms in the absence of proof.
Spherical and hollow, suzu bells contain pellets.

The search for truth without error does not preclude fact.
Even tongueless bells ring.

 

 

“Diverting Silence” was published in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art in February 2017.

(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

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(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

Which is to say clarity persists in
increments, in the silent space between
color and lens, within parables seen
in the incomplete: straw, hand. Imagine

white valued more than manner as hidden
thought remains obscured. Lower your eyes, lean
forward. Perspectives tilt towards the mean,
suggesting purpose. When we examine

intent, do we find it? The irony
of bottled cork, of sullied paradise,
a coiled wire, the parrot whose voice,

unheard, implicates us. What felony
must we commit to admit the device
in play? Pull or release? The mimic’s choice.

 

* * *

Notes: “In full light we are not even a shadow” is a line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices.

Hotel Eden is the title of a piece of art by Joseph Cornell. An image may be found here:
http://www.wikiart.org/en/joseph-cornell/untitled-the-hotel-eden-1945

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This made its first appearance here in March 2015.

 

Scarecrow Replies

 

Scarecrow Replies

 

This talk of destiny and exceptionalism and the incessant
push towards terror inflames my metaphorical innards.
Birds may kill, but they don’t practice genocide and never
erase history’s missteps with published falsities; their songs
remain true. Not so with man. What grows importance is
not what you hold but what another has in his grasp, no matter
how tenuous. I think of water and how some would charge
for the right to drink, or withhold it from those who cannot
pay. And air? Whose breath defines the dollar? Or the fear
that a distant neighbor might receive a benefit that you
neither need nor desire. Crows claim territory but roam
with the season, adapt as necessary. While they may provoke
curses in their wake, their damage is temporary and they
don’t poison for profit. If I could leave my post what station
would I accept? Having shared my days with sky-bound
friends, how could I choose another? They sing and swoop
and cooperate among the winds, taking only what they need.
They neither hoard nor covet. They steal but don’t swindle.
Their wings lift no grudges. Even gravity respects them.

 

 

“Scarecrow Replies” first appeared in MockingHeart Review in May 2018. Thank you to editor Clare Martin for her generosity and many kindnesses.

 

Mockingbird III

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Mockingbird III

Songs, returned
to their space

within the sphere of
movement, the patterns inscribed
as if to touch the face of every

wind: here one moment, then
gone. This quickness delights us.
How, then, do we so often forget

those things we share? Night
comes and goes to another’s
phrase, yet each note is so precisely

placed, so carefully rendered
that we hear only the voice, not its source.

 

* * *

Another piece from the 80s. This first appeared here in March 2015, and would likely be a much longer poem if I were to write it today.

 

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Mockingbird

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Mockingbird

Withdrawn, it unfolds
to another
voice, like that

of a child lost in the wind.
Or, lonely, it rises from its place

and sings, only
to return and start again.
The pleasure we accept derives from

the knowledge that we are not alone.
Each morning we walk out and sit
by the stones, hoping to observe some

new patterns in his life. What we
see is an answer. What we hear is no song.

 

* * *

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“Mockingbird” made its first appearance here in January 2015. It was written
in the 1980s, probably around 1987-1989.

 

Thinking of Li Po at Sky’s End (after Tu Fu)

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Thinking of Li Po at Sky’s End (after Tu Fu)

Cold wind rises at the sky’s end.
What does he consider?
And when will the geese arrive?
The rivers and lakes are full this autumn
but poets’ fates are seldom pleasant.
Demons love to see us fail.
Let’s think of dead Ch’u Yuan
and offer poems to the river.

 

The transliteration on Chinesepoems.com reads:

 

Thinking of Li Po at the End of the Sky

Cold wind rise sky end
Gentleman thought resemble what?
Goose what time come?
River lake autumn water much
Literature hate fate eminent
Demons happy people failure
Respond together wronged person language
Throw poems give Miluo

 

According to the notes at Chinesepoems.com, the wild goose is a symbol of autumn, letters and travellers in difficulties. The wronged person is Qu Yuan, a poet of the fourth century BC who drowned himself in the Miluo river – another exiled poet later threw some verses into the river as an offering to him.

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While Blowing on the Shakuhachi I Think of Birds

While Blowing on the Shakuhachi, I Think of Birds

Yesterday’s sorrow
dissipates in joy.
Though you are not here, I hear your voice,

blow a solitary note in response.
Your philosopher bird carries it to you,
two-thousand miles away,
as the wren brings your song to me.

This is love today
and tomorrow, 
embodied in birdsong and faith.

Next week I will know your touch
as you will mine.

We’ll follow our lists,
starting with lips, while the universe
surges around us, filling the voids we never saw.

Needs, answered.

Perhaps the world will end.

Perhaps the red-tailed hawk will follow its nature.

Perhaps I will stand on the roof and shout your name.

But today, this little bird nesting in all the unsaid spaces,
is all I have, little mouth flickering, forming moons and

new mornings, new shadows, new light.

* * *

“While Blowing on the Shakuhachi I Think of Birds” first appeared in Voices de la Luna in March 2020.

The Art of Flight

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The Art of Flight

What wings accumulate is not air
but space, an exemplar

of restraint defied. I listen
and hear feathers

ruffling in the shadows,
a vibration that swells

until it becomes flight or
regret, the retrieval of our

bodies from this dream of ascent.
The art of flight is one of

disturbance, of angles and lift
and touching what can’t be seen.

What we hold carries no meaning.
The beauty lies in the gathering.

 

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I wrote this piece in the mid-80s, and posted it here in 2015. I’d forgotten about it, until I found the original moldering in a box of old papers. It’s okay, for an artifact from another life…

Cardinal

 

Cardinal

Question: what is air if not
the means by which we

see and feel? Sound creates only
itself, another version of the original

sense. I move from shadows to a deeper
darkness, hoping to find that point where absence
ends. But there is no end, only

continuation, a cry for those
who offer their hands in ambiguity. Sometimes
a cardinal’s call fills our

morning with questions. So
little of all we touch
is felt. We are the air. The air is.

 

 

Another poem from the 80s. I was obsessed with birds even back then…