In Gathering Light

In Gathering Light

1

I sit in darkness
my back to the words
gouged in stone

and wonder what
phrase the stars will
utter tonight,

what wisdom
one finds in dreams

or the widening circles
of the hole that was
there
in water,

in earth, in the common tongue
of all things.

The tree speaks
a different language.
I hear

whispers, a bone-flute’s
whistle, the sound of metal
striking dirt striking

wood,
but nothing, no words
I can gather.

2

I have lost my shadow
among the weeds
of this place.

Somewhere
it wanders,

a thin, grey shape
waiting for light to give birth

to the blackness
I call friend,

itself, shadow.
My fingertips trace
the lines, hoping

to draw something
from the stone –
an unknown word,

the druid’s
small bag of dreams,
the lyrics of the stars.

* * *

Another poem, another artifact from the mid-80s, rediscovered last year.

This Oak

  

This Oak

Never rooted in Tibet,
has not watched a whale breach
a November Pacific dusk, or guzzled
bitter beer near Vesuvius. Nor has it
absorbed the warmth of a loved one’s
hip on a frozen morning long after
the embers’ glow has greyed
and the windows blossomed
white. It cannot know the beauty
of disparate instruments playing
in joyous harmony. It will whisper
no incantations, does not smile,
won’t ever feel the anticipation
of a first kiss after a complicated
courtship. The bouquets of Bordeaux
elude it, as do tears or the benefits
of laughter. Why, then, do I envy it so?

 

 

“This Oak” was published in Slippery Elm (print only) published by Findlay University in Findlay, Ohio, in spring 2019. 

 

Tree

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Tree

where you go
the wind follows
as if no

choice remains but
that of sun
and oak an

attraction such that
limbs curve to
light a certainty

which cautions us
to intrude lest
we lose all

sight and sense
of beauty you
are this tree

 

 

A Walk Through the Live Oaks

 

Written in the 80s, “Tree” first appeared here in December 2014.

Mayflies (with recording)

 

Mayflies

Having no functioning
mouths, adults do not eat,

and live their lives
never knowing

the pleasure of food
and drink, the bitter

bite of dandelion greens
with the crisp notes

of prosecco rolling over
the tongue. Instead,

they engage in aerial
sex, often in swarms

above water, many dipping
to the surface to lay eggs,

some submerging, while
others die unfulfilled,

eaten. Who’s to say
which life burns brighter;

even knowing these facts,
still I dream of flight.

 

 

“Mayflies” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. It was also the inspiration for the artwork gracing the cover. I am in debt to Stephanie L. Harper for providing such a vivid and appropriate piece of art for the book. Available at Amazon.Com and Here

 

 

Self-Portrait with W

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Self Portrait with W

One might claim a double victory, or after the Roman Empire’s fall, a reclamation
from the slurred “b” and its subsequent reduction.

Survival of the rarely heard, of the occipital’s impulse.

The oak’s crook performs a similar function.

Shielding myself from adjuration, I contemplate the second family
root, weighted in weapons, in Woden, in wood.

Not rejection, but acceptance in avoidance.

The Japanese homophone, daburu, bears a negative connotation.

Original language was thought to be based on a natural
relation between objects and things.

Baudelaire’s alphabet existed without “W,” as does the Italian.

The recovery of lost perfection is no longer our aim.

When following another, I often remain silent.
As in two, as in answer, as in reluctance, reticence.

We share halves – one light, one shadowed, but both of water.

Overlapped or barely touching, still we complete.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait with W” originally appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait series in 2014, and was reprinted in my chapbook, The Circumference of Other, included in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.

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Vesuvius

 

Vesuvius

When the earth shrugs,
some warnings are better
heeded. A little

smoke, some ash.
A knife point held to the chin.

Why listen at all?
The man in the big house hides in its vastness.
Surrounded, he walks alone.
People speak, but he hears only himself.

Meanwhile,
the mountain
belches

and the birds fly north
seeking firm ground
upon which to land.

 

* * *

“Vesuvius” was first published in The Big Windows Review in December 2017. I’m grateful to editor Thomas Zimmerman for accepting this piece.

 

Threes

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Threes

Difficulties arrive in waves,
lending weight to the theory of threes,

the plunging fund, a failed engagement, the self’s
doubt, all combined to inflict the particular

misery of the ongoing, the continued, inelegant fate
that declares us human. Look,

she says, the hummingbird flits from leaf to
flower, its wings beating 58 times a second,

a fact not to be trifled with, for what may we duplicate,
contemplate, even, at that pace?

Say the hedge gets clipped, the ring whirs off the finger
and back to the jeweler, and all you know for certain

is that you don’t know. There is no why, no how. No
way. Or life’s reel unwinds and plays only in

reverse. Where do you stop and splice it, forming new,
uncharted worries? And what about that damned

bird, buzzing around your head in territorial fury? Yes,
yes, I know. These things are not my concern. Not really.

But they arrive in unending repetition, one after
the other, in clumps of three – lovely, lonely,

triple-threaded lines of vicissitude lapping at our ankles,
saying nothing, saying everything, saying it used to be so easy.

 

* * *

“Threes” was riginally published in Eclectica in July 2014, and first appeared on this blog in July 2015.

image

Saltwater

 

Saltwater

What if you close your eyes
and your throat relinquishes

the morning’s bright
fingers, freed from bruises.

Suppose that particular night
never happened, the way

a wave crashing ashore
empties itself and trickles

back in separate communities,
mingling yet aloof, a

diminishing cortege. What
is the question? Take this

spoon. Fill it with saltwater.
Upend it into the pail. Observe.

 

“Saltwater” was first published in Nine Muses Poetry in May 2018.

 

Letter from Kansas

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I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing, and was republished by Silver Birch Press in 2017. The kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

 

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

 

 

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.