Self-Portrait with Shadow

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Self-Portrait with Shadow

Sometimes light reveals our thoughts.
Separate and unequal, we blend.

The predominant sibilant in English,
its pronunciation varies.

Sciaphobia is the fear of shadows. Last
winter the wellhead froze and we

chain-sawed our way to warmth,
synchronized in the fading light.

And which decides the other’s fate?
In the flame I detect new life, a hissing

in the cast iron box. Though ranked only 8th
in frequency of use, more words in English

begin with S, leaving additional questions.
Is hiss the opposite of shh?

The umbra is the darkest part
of the shadow, where light is completely

blocked. Not the serpent, but the bow
and a misperception. Shadows grow

in proportion to the distance
between the object blocking the light

and the projection surface. Resembling
infinity, yet missing the link. Two facets

of one darkness. A faint suggestion. Amphiscians
cast shadows in two directions. Or not at all.

This appeared on the blog in April 2015, and another version appeared in Otoliths in fall of 2013, but it appears that I’m not quite done with it. I’d been exploring our alphabet, tracing letters’ origins from hieroglyphs to present form, and attempting to merge some of those findings with disparate details. One of these days I’ll get back to it…

A Q&A and more successful examples of what I was trying to achieve can be found at Prime Number Magazine:

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Letter to Schnee from the Stent’s Void

 

Letter to Schnee from the Stent’s Void

Dear Dan: I’ve been trying to revive that dream,
the one in which the rare Texas bird sings “cuckoo, y’all,”
before shimmering through the night’s shrilling heart
and wakefulness, as you clamber up the balcony to join me
in knocking back Japanese single malt, chilled soba and Doritos.
The distance between earth and a first floor balcony may vary,
but the fall’s impact can’t ache so much as what never was or won’t
be. My mother’s family hovers out there in the World of Darkness,
while I stumble through my days under the Texas sun, rice grains
trickling from holes in my pockets, studding the way between
there and here, back and forth, between us and them, now and
maybe. I confess that communication doesn’t come naturally
to me. I’m reticent and slow on the uptake, and enjoy my time
as a shaded diminishment with only occasional forays
into the light. So much to learn, so little capacity. I could spend
hours watching the spider working among the unread books,
while my mandolin languishes in its case and the earth
keeps spinning, spinning, holding us in place. What tunes
have I forgotten, which remain unsung? The wire mesh tube
in my heart cleared the way from a numbered life, and now
I roll along in words, which bear their own bags of worry.
But I’ve learned to empty and stack the burlap on the floor near
the resonator, and the sacks magically replenish themselves
every night. So it goes. Empty, refill. Like a glass of Hibiki,
or blood pumped through our anterior descending veins.
Tonight rice and peppers will fill my belly, with fish, a mango
cream sauce, and a bitter ale, which I would share with you,
perhaps in another dream, or better yet, in person, under
stars announced by mythical birds on a warm night with
laughter in the breeze. No ladder needed. Come on up. Bob.

 

“Letter to Schnee from the Stent’s Void” was first published in Lost River in August 2018. Many thanks to editor Leigh Cheak for publishing this piece.

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

Forgotten, you settle into the earth,
naming stones for each destination missed –
Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise – which is worth
each open-mouthed coin laid on the rail, kissed

and reformed into altered currency
no longer capable of carrying
debt or a tourist’s sense of urgency,
only dying days and the wearying

plight of the unmoved. If vines caress your
body, who’s to blame for accepting their
advances? When green subsumes rust, deplore
that too, but enjoy the moments you share,

leaf on metal and glass, the raspy light
tonguing your throat through those long, whistling nights.

 

 

Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket

 

Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket

Dear Daniel: How fortunate we are to tap into this medium of ether
and zeros and ones and all the combinations employed in our paperless
context. I am drawn to the concept of text as textile, as an entity
woven into the fabric of communication. Who knew that simple lines,
dots, dashes and squiggles would someday depict so well our
abstract beginnings and fingered desires, from counted goats and
jars of oil to the tattoo on a beloved’s inner thigh. The gap between
thought and graphic representation, whether on paper or glowing
screen, seems heightened these days, in spite of their ubiquitous
presences. I scratched my name onto the frozen creek’s surface,
only to watch it subsume as the mercury rose. I report this only
because you’ve scribed too well that feeling of treading on uncertain
surfaces, of words expanding in meaning and dragging us along
separate byways, fork into fork, under and through what we
never considered. That is our fate – to emerge from the pocket,
folded, wrinkled and smudged, smelling of makkoli and fish
markets and unwritten phrases stored in rice jars, our personal
creases expanding as we inspect the characters found there, some
crimped, others elongated, still others nearly invisible but apparent
through indentation. Translate these and what have you but a history
of glorious failures and unfelt victories in marks, on white,
somehow of note, if only to oneself. Success is a stranger’s smile,
an omelet cooked to order and eaten with gusto. It pulses
in the doing, in the unsteady drip from the faucet with a desiccated
washer, and the ink staining the page symbol by line. I know only
what I know, which ain’t much, but I keep trying to learn, to
cobble together these odd symbols into assemblages greater than
myself. As if anyone would notice. Say hello to the marred, the
cracked and disheveled of Jeju, and I’ll return the favor from
my hideaway in the Texas hills. As always, believe. Bob.

 

“Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket” first appeared on Vox Populi in July 2018. I am grateful to Michael Simms for publishing this piece (and others).

 

 

Letter to a Ghost

box2

 

Letter to a Ghost

Had I not dreamed your death, I would have praised this day.
Your name rests in a wooden box on a desk

in a room far away and twice as old as we were then.
My penance in this phase: to continue.

I gather words close and refrain from admissions.
The clock on the wall seldom chimes,

like one whose vows circumvent convenience, or
a shade allowing the barest sliver of light

through the window. That tock preceding
a long silence. Snow blanketing the mounded earth.

Your scent never lingers past sleep, where you remain.
At last I no longer covet those sheets you’ve shared.

Your name rests in a box. I gather words and refrain.

 

ghost

“Letter to a Ghost” last appeared herein 2017.

Acceptance Charm

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

 

Acceptance Charm

She’ll take the river’s trace
over curl      and leaf

and the street’s
dead end,

riveting eyes
even as they blink.

The narcotic’s       benediction.

Renewal. Sleep.

That bed      remains unmade,
stripped of purpose: no

caress     a thigh would
recognize

dark fingers      writing in air

 

dead-end

“Acceptance Charm” last appeared here in April 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.

Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket

 

Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket

Dear Daniel: How fortunate we are to tap into this medium of ether
and zeros and ones and all the combinations employed in our paperless
context. I am drawn to the concept of text as textile, as an entity
woven into the fabric of communication. Who knew that simple lines,
dots, dashes and squiggles would someday depict so well our
abstract beginnings and fingered desires, from counted goats and
jars of oil to the tattoo on a beloved’s inner thigh. The gap between
thought and graphic representation, whether on paper or glowing
screen, seems heightened these days, in spite of their ubiquitous
presences. I scratched my name onto the frozen creek’s surface,
only to watch it subsume as the mercury rose. I report this only
because you’ve scribed too well that feeling of treading on uncertain
surfaces, of words expanding in meaning and dragging us along
separate byways, fork into fork, under and through what we
never considered. That is our fate – to emerge from the pocket,
folded, wrinkled and smudged, smelling of makkoli and fish
markets and unwritten phrases stored in rice jars, our personal
creases expanding as we inspect the characters found there, some
crimped, others elongated, still others nearly invisible but apparent
through indentation. Translate these and what have you but a history
of glorious failures and unfelt victories in marks, on white,
somehow of note, if only to oneself. Success is a stranger’s smile,
an omelet cooked to order and eaten with gusto. It pulses
in the doing, in the unsteady drip from the faucet with a desiccated
washer, and the ink staining the page symbol by line. I know only
what I know, which ain’t much, but I keep trying to learn, to
cobble together these odd symbols into assemblages greater than
myself. As if anyone would notice. Say hello to the marred, the
cracked and disheveled of Jeju, and I’ll return the favor from
my hideaway in the Texas hills. As always, believe. Bob.

 

“Letter to Marshall from the Scarecrow’s Pocket” first appeared on Vox Populi in July 2018. I am grateful to Michael Simms for publishing this piece (and others).

 

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

Forgotten, you settle into the earth,
naming stones for each destination missed –
Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise – which is worth
each open-mouthed coin laid on the rail, kissed

and reformed into altered currency
no longer capable of carrying
debt or a tourist’s sense of urgency,
only dying days and the wearying

plight of the unmoved. If vines caress your
body, who’s to blame for accepting their
advances? When green subsumes rust, deplore
that too, but enjoy the moments you share,

leaf on metal and glass, the raspy light
tonguing your throat through those long, whistling nights.

 

 

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.