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?

The Mathematics of Dying

grackles


The Mathematics of Dying

Always the sense of negation, of winnowing those bits you once were.

The male grackle struts and displays his tail feathers.

Everything slanting towards null, even the treetops.

The female’s smaller body lacks blue overtones.

A misread signal, the unheeded warning, ignored pain.

Counting beaks, adding wings, subtracting heartbeats.

The image I possess magnifies with age, observing protocol.

An annoyance or plague, their song grows harsher with time.

Your eleven shadows still point to the noontime sun.

* * *

“The Mathematics of Dying” is included in my mini-digital-chapbook, Interval’s Nightpublished in December 2016 and made available via free download by Platypus Press in their 2412 series.

dial

Year’s End

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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.

* * *

“Year’s End” is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, available via free download from Origami Poems Project. Many thanks to editor Jan Keough for taking the mini-chap and offering this opportunity to so many.

night

Window Open, Closed

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Window Open, Closed

We enter daylight in the shape
of praise, little words

billowing through wire mesh. Across
the highway a busboy questions time

and the concept of never, while
someone plucks leaves from the bay

tree and plans her day. Roger Bacon
longed to manipulate the inner essence

of inanimate objects, to harness their force,
and a lonely man swallows prescription drugs

deliberately, releasing their attributes over time.
My eyes redden from juniper pollen as the moon

spins invisibly above our roofs, tugging at the
clouds. I once traced in a building of music

the organ’s sound to the woman I longed
to attract. Now, the window prevents the passage

of solids, but waves penetrate. I spread my fingers
across the glass, but feel no vibrations. Distant

sirens announce a procession of cause and intent,
of carelessness and indecision. Somewhere a voice rises.

* * *

This originally appeared during Bonnie McClellan’s 2015 International Poetry Month celebration, and is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press chapbook collection, IDES, available on Amazon. A recording of the poem may be found on Bonnie’s site.

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