Flame

 

Flame 

Drifting, she passes through the frame.

Reshapes borders, edges.

The way smoke scribes a letter in the sky with
gases and particulates. Intractable. Impermanent.

But not like a risen corpse
yet to accept its body’s stilling, or
the flooded creek’s waters taking
a house and the family within. Some things

are explainable. This morning you drained
the sink, and thunder set off a neighbor’s alarm.

From every moment, a second emerges.

Picture a man lighting a candle where a home once stood.

* * *

“Flame” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available for order via Amazon.com and Finishing Line Press.

Poem Nominated for a Pushcart

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My poem, “Year’s End,” which is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Only This is available via free download from Origami Poems Project. Thank you to Jan and Kevin Keough for this honor!

Year’s End

If I lose myself in breathing,
will the air forgive my forgetfulness?

This oak, too, will stand long after
the last train exits the tunnel.

I worry that my friend may never
clamber past his lowest ambition.

Different and unabated, our words
now stumble over themselves.

Every night forms a morning somewhere:
each year, combined in our shared darkness.

* * *

night

Self-Portrait with Blue

Blue

Self-Portrait with Blue

Darker shades contain black or grey. I claim
the median and the shortened spectrum, near dawn’s terminus.

In many languages, one word describes both blue and green.

Homer had no word for it.

The color of moonlight and bruises, of melancholy and unmet
expectation, it cools and calms, and slows the heart.

Woad. Indigo. Azurite. Lapis lazuli. Dyes. Minerals. Words. Alchemy. 

On this clear day I stretch my body on the pond’s surface and submerge.

Not quite of earth, blue protects the dead against evil in the afterlife, 
and offers the living solace through flatted notes and blurred 7ths.

Blue eyes contain no blue pigment.

In China, it is associated with torment. In Turkey, with mourning.

Between despair and clarity, reflection and detachment,
admit the leaves and sky, the ocean, the earth.

Water captures the red, but reflects and scatters blue.

Look to me and absorb, and absorbing, perceive.

This originally appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series, and is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press chapbook collection, IDESpublished in October 2015.

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On The Burden of Flowering

On the Burden of Flowering

Even the cactus wren
surrenders itself
to the task,

though it rarely listens
to my voice. How do clouds
blossom day to day

and leave so little
behind? The bookless shelf
begs to be filled, but instead

I watch the morning age
as the sun arcs higher.
Yesterday you said

the mint marigold
was dying. Today it
stands tall. Yellowing.

“On the Burden of Flowering” first appeared in Panoply in August 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second.

Recording of Bottom, Falling

bird silhouette

Bottom, Falling

Through that window you see another bird
rising, unlabeled, unwanted, yet noticed.
A limb’s last leaf. The boy’s breath.
Like the morning after your father died,
when temperature didn’t register
and heat shallowed through the morning’s
end. Still you shivered. Glass. Wind.
Night’s body. How to calibrate nothing’s
grace? Take notes. Trace its echo. Try.

“Bottom Falling” was published in Into the Void in October 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a SecondIt was written in response to a note my friend Michael sent me, and as he’s in town and we’re having lunch today, it seems a good time to repost this.

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To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening


To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening

No prayers exit here, nothing
limits you. I never knew
before.

The pear tree’s ghost shudders.

Water pools in the depression of its absence.

For years I have wandered from shadow to
source, longing. Now, at rest,
you come to me and fear
evaporates. I would like to count
the smallest distraction.
I would like to disturb.

You are the name
I whisper
to clouds.

Will you leave if I open the door?

A carnival germinates in my body.

You are not death, but its closest friend.

Darkness parts, folds around you.

I close my eyes and observe.

* * *

“To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening” first appeared in Shantih in December 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second available  through Finishing Line Press and Amazon.com.

And Sometimes You Say No

And Sometimes You Say No

Perhaps I’m getting cantankerous in my dotage, unwilling to admit that I can’t expect good things to continue coming my way, and should consider settling for what’s offered. After all, the age reel isn’t rewinding, and my inbox is not exactly buzzing with publication offers. There are more funerals than weddings in my future. I limp. Each day is indeed a blessing but my remaining minutes do not feel unconstrained. Far from it.

A few months ago I received an acceptance email from a chapbook publisher affiliated with a literary journal that had published one of my poems. The chapbook is strong, I think, and I felt good about the acceptance, until I read the one-sided contract. You can guess which side received the greater benefit. I emailed a reply asking for clarifications, and received one back the next day. To sum it up: the publisher would deign to publish me, but I’d bear responsibility for all promotion beyond their announcements on social media. Furthermore, their standard policy was to provide no review copies, and I would have to meet their minimum pre-publication sales order in order to be published. I could deal with these annoyances if there were hope of some payment, but in this case payment would be limited to 12% of the initial print run, which would likely run from 40 to 100 copies. So let’s say I was one of the fortunates who merited a 100-copy printing (which, to be frank, is on the low end). My total payment would consist of twelve copies, out of which I would need to provide any copies sent to reviewers, leaving me with oh, let’s say nine or ten to sell at readings. Chances are after a couple of readings, I’d have no chapbooks remaining, and would need to purchase additional copies from the publisher if I wanted to sell more. But under their terms, I’d receive only a 30% discount. Bear in mind that bookstores generally require a 40% discount to sell a book – they have to make something on the transaction. The publisher’s price was $14, so each consignment sale through a bookstore would net a loss of $1.40 per book. Uh, no. I may be a poet, but I can add and subtract, and I will not a) pay a publisher to publish my work, b) lose money merely to see my words in print, or c) work for free (I’m willing to do my part, but the publisher must also function as more than just a printer).

What to do? Stay on the same track? Submitting to publishers, and then on the rare occasion a manuscript is accepted, peruse the publisher’s terms and sign only if they’re agreeable? Self-publish? I haven’t wanted to take on the headaches of self-publishing, but am leaning in that direction more and more. I have two chapbooks scheduled for release during the next year, and am grateful to the publishers for offering good terms to their writers. But after these are in print, what course should I take?