Icarus

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Icarus

the answer is
not the history
of flight but

a question of
wings a notion
born of desperation

and fright each
quill ruffled by
the delicate tongue

of air can
only reflect this
fortune a dream

but never a
tragedy the gift
of gravity’s denial

 

sun

 

Written probably in 1985 or 1986, this is the first poem I titled “Icarus.” After lurking in a drawer for decades, it made its first public appearance here on the blog in December 2017.

 

 

Aleppo

 

 

Aleppo

A father sings to his son,
dead two days,
and the platitudes persist.
Widow of night. Lantern’s trick.
What trace, you wonder,
exists of humanity in these etched
walls? Light bleeds through a crack
like rules unheeded and scattered.
Another sheer looming of hours.
The song, continued.

 

“Aleppo” was first published in Vox Populi in August 2018. I am grateful to editor Michael Simms for his continuing support of my work.

 

 

Gulf

gulf

 

Gulf
for M.V.

Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.

 

 

“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.

 

On Listening to Edgar Meyer

 

On Listening to Edgar Meyer

Smoke, and bent grass,
the earth rippling underfoot.
A child throwing stones
but never at random.
You wonder that one suggests
laughter, as a second draws tears.

Still, it drags you in.
Like water seeking its level,
a depression that must be fed.
You ride that deep current
never questioning its source,
complete in the moment. Filled.

 

 

Edgar Meyer’s music removes me from my body, transports me to another plane, one free of politicians and avarice, a place where truth matters. Today has been a good day to listen, to absorb. And hey, those fellows he’s playing with ain’t too shabby…

 

Somehow Dawn

 

Somehow Dawn

I don’t know what to say. Or how.
Feeling that I am on the upslope,
not close. Not wrong. I want
to be that hollowed space
in the hackberry’s trunk,
the calm of darkened light.
And more. Some honey, dripped
from the spoon. A house finch,
fluttering. I will whittle my losses,
carve out needs. She will tell me
the history of our days. She will
smile, engrave her initials on my
chest. Somehow, the birds still
sing. Somehow, dawn trickles in.

 

“Somehow Dawn” was first published in August 2019 at Vox Populi. I am grateful to Michael Simms for his support, and am thrilled to be a regular contributor to this lively publication.

Lying in Bed I Think of Breakfast (with recording)

 

 

Lying in Bed, I Think of Breakfast

The moon smiles and I lie here thinking
of the simple breakfasts I would cook for
us: sticky rice with scrambled eggs and
sauteed peppers, or toasted boule with bacon
jam and a side of sliced peaches. And coffee.
Always coffee, black and bitter. But circumstance
dictates other courses, other time zones, and you
wake in your city as I walk in mine, an early
shopper plundering the store’s vegetable
bins, wandering the aisles in search of a
bargain and that special ingredient missing
from my tired, inconsolable days.

 

 

“Lying in Bed I Think of Breakfast” was published in December 2019 by The Big Windows Review. Thanks to editor Thomas Zimmerman for accepting this piece.

 

Poems Up at MockingHeart Review

KermitNot

My poems “In a Moment of Existential Anxiety Kermit Plays the Banjo” and “Magpie Love Song” are live at MockingHeart Review. Many thanks to editor Tyler Robert Sheldon for taking these pieces.

 

Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome

Welcome Corvids

 

Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome

Nothing about me shines or sparkles. If asked,
I would place myself among the discarded —
remnant cloth and straw, worn, inedible,
useless, if not for packaging intended to
convey a certain message, which I of course
have subverted to “Welcome, corvids!” Even
my voice lies stranded in the refuse, silent
yet harmonious, clear yet strangled, whole
and unheard, dispersed, like tiny drops of
vapor listing above the ocean’s swell, enduring
gray skies and gulls and those solemn rocks
bearing their weight against the white crush.
Why do I persist? What tethers a shadow
to its body? How do we hear by implication
what isn’t there? Bill Monroe hammered
his mandolin, chopping chords, muting,
droning, banging out incomplete minors
to expectant ears, constructing more than
a ladder of notes climbing past the rafters
into the smoky sky. What I sing is not
heard but implied: the high lonesome, blue
and old-time, repealed. Crushed limestone
underfoot. Stolen names, borrowed sounds.
Dark words subsumed by light, yellowed,
whitened, faded to obscurity, to obscenity.

Who among you has eaten a cake based on a poem? Stephanie L. Harper made this for me to celebrate a recent birthday. The photo doesn’t do it justice – the level of detail, especially in the crow feathers, doesn’t come through. An incredible cake by an incredible poet and human being. And wife! I am a lucky man.

“Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome” first appeared in Crannóg, in June 2017.

In Praise of Darkness

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In Praise of Darkness

Night falls, but day
breaks. A raw deal,

no doubt, but fairness
applies itself unevenly. Who

chooses weeds over
lies, flowers over truth?

Last night’s rain fell, too,
but didn’t crack the drought.

Again, we think injustice!
Again, we consider falls.

 

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“In Praise of Darkness” last appeared here in March, 2016, and is included in my chapbook If Your Matter Could Reform.