Poems in Purifying Wind (a vulture anthology)

 

I have four poems included in Purifying Wind (available through Amazon), an anthology of pieces about or mentioning vultures. I’m proud to have these poems published alongside those of fellow poets Sudhanshu Chopra, Stephanie L. Harper and Jim LaVilla-Havelin, among others. Thank you, d. ellis phelps, for taking these poems.

 

Ghost, with a Line from Porchia

 

Ghost, with a Line from Porchia

In my dreams you manifest in a younger form.

If I were to give you life, what could I give you?

Your hands never touched these walls, yet you inhabit them.

As my language inters you, I am absorbed in yours.

Some gifts are simply not proffered, others are released.

My fingers retrace your name in both sun and shade.

The rain taps out regrets, regrets on the metal roof.

Dim spirit, faint soul. Root-land. Shoal. Mother.

Each visit signals the darkness waiting.

Your battle with language, with silence, invoked.

I stretch the word and weave this dirge for you.

 

* * *

Note: “If I were to give you life, what could I give you?is from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin.

“Ghost, with a Line from Porchia” first appeared in Underfoot in October 2017.

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

mask

 

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

Tracing the map to the swaying places, she rises
through the interior world, garnering peace by
syllable. Water, clouds and sand mark her ascent.
The expectation is return, renewal. My friend did not
awaken this morning, and tonight I praise her
passage with drink and song. Matter into spirit,
mountain into sky, redemption, freedom. We bathe in
light, reclaiming the liminal. Our tears evaporate,
leaving salt and untrod paths in our wake.

The paths in our wake delimit the future, but
everything falls. Which do we desire more, the grasp
or its release? That instant preceding fear defines a
yearning particular to its course, a cycle of regression
and progress: ancestors descend into human or
animal form, die, depart to the heavens, and return
anew. Distilled power, a bridge to the spirits, the
mask unshutters and conceals the conscious mind.
Opening my eyes, I release the sun.

I release the sun and observe the results. From sky
to soil, from above to below, to solidity. Spirit
acquires matter, disperses and regroups. Rain and
alluvion, flooded homes, the dark night of childish
laughter. Each to her own path, each to an end. Muting
the string, I touch the harmonic into the world, linking
civility to proportion, lowering dissonance. Everything
falls. Everything. From curve to angle, we resist and
rejoice. In this design parabola, she descends.

 

* * *

“Palinode (salt, mask, descent)” was first published in Otoliths in slightly different form, and is included in my chapbook, I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes).

ascent

 

The Body Gives (with recording)

 

The Body Gives

Sometimes the body gives too much.
A tendon frays, the heart mumbles
and no one sees the damaged parts.

Ignoring pain, we continue climbing ladders,
sandpaper breath rasping the morning light.

Little bits of us crumble all the time,
yet we stumble on, pretending.

Then the body kills us with its enthusiasm.

Cells duplicate wildly, plaque explodes.
This enmity within? Defensive maneuvers.

Working alone, I wonder where I might end.

On the floor. In a field. Atop the bed.
Under the surface of a rippling pond
or drifting with smoke

through a snow-clad afternoon
at eight thousand feet. Among
the grocery’s tomatoes and squash
approaching the end of a long list.

At the bar, glass in hand, or in a truck
at a four-way stop, the radio blaring.

Time enough for speculation, they say.
But I wonder: when I jump,

does the earth always rise to greet me?

 

* * * *

“The Body Gives” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

 

 

Two Poems Up at Ligeia

 

My poems “Moonwalker” and “Take Another Piece of My Heart” were published in Ligeia’s Winter 2019 edition.  Many thanks to poetry editor Ashley Wagner for taking these poems. I’m also grateful to Tami Wright for providing the title and sponsoring “Take Another Piece of My Heart” in the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 fundraiser.

 

 

Not Blame Your Pleasure

bike

 

Not Blame Your Pleasure

Because vision limits options, I close my eyes.

Becoming urges patience.

The morning after I didn’t die, I took breakfast in bed.

Arrival stamps the difference between waiting and choice.

Expectation, too, extends its squeeze, rendering sleep impossible.

I ride the bike and go nowhere, or walk steadily, covering the same ground.

Which will claim me first? An occlusion, gravity or unchecked growth?

Anticipation replaces one sigh with another: I have three falls from two roofs.

A friend has named me executor of his estate, and now the race is on.

The path to the void seems straight only near its end.

My ashes will one day soil someone’s morning.

 

ladder

“Not Blame Your Pleasure” first appeared here in November 2015.

 

Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

DSC_1243

 

Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

First heaven took my wife,
and now, my son.
These eyes will never dry
and my heart slowly turns to ash.
Rain seeps far into the earth
like a pearl dropped into the sea.
Swim deep and you’ll see the pearl,
dig in the earth and you’ll find water.
But when people return to the source,
we know they’re gone forever.
I touch my empty chest and ask, who
is that withered ghost in the mirror?

 

* * *

“Sheng-yu’s Lament” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Heaven already take my wife
Again again take my son
Two eyes although not dry
(Disc) heart will want die
Rain fall enter earth in
Pearl sink enter sea deep
Enter sea can seek pearl
Dig earth can see water
Only person return source below
Through the ages know self (yes)
Touch breast now ask who
Emaciated mirror in ghost

 

SAM_0841

Scarecrow Considers the Afterlife (with recording)

Scarecrow and Friends

 

Scarecrow Considers the Afterlife

Gathering threads, I join them with a central
knot, producing a sunburst flower or constellation
of ley lines spreading forth and connecting their
tenuous truths – megalith to fjord, solstice to
dodmen and feng shui, suppositions entwined
and spat out. And who’s to say which alignment
stands taller than the next, which rut, which energy,
defines our direction? When I cease to be, will I
remain or dissipate, return in another form or
explode and scatter throughout the universe, the
residue of me sizzling along the starways for eternity
or perhaps just the next twenty minutes. It is clear
that I possess no heart, no internal organs. My spine
is lattice, my skin, fabricated from jute. Eviscerate
me and straw will tumble out. I do not bleed. Yet
the crows consult me in secret and conduct their
daily mercies, and I think and dance and dream
and wonder and hope. Oh, what I hope.

 

* * *

This was first published at Eclectica in July 2016, with two companion pieces.

As Blue Fades

 

As Blue Fades

Which defines you best, a creaking lid or the light-turned flower?

The coffee’s steam or smoke wafting from your hand.

Your bowls color my shelves; I touch them daily.

Sound fills their bodies with memory.

The lighter’s click invokes your name.

And the stepping stones to nowhere, your current address.

If the moon could breathe would its breath flavor our nights?

I picture a separate one above your clouded island.

The dissipating blue in filtered light.

Above the coral. Above the waves and ocean floor far below.

Above the space your ashes should share.

Where the boats rise and fall, like chests, like the waning years.

Like a tide carrying me towards yesterday’s reef.

Or the black-tailed gull spinning in the updraft.

 

 

“As Blue Fades” first appeared in Underfoot in October 2017.

The Resonance of No (with recording)

dishes

 

 

 The Resonance of No

Yes, yes, we’ve heard. The dishwasher wastes less
and cleans better. But Kenk­ō believed in the beauty
of leisure, and how better to make nothing
while standing with hands in soapy water, thoughts
skipping from Miles Davis’s languid notes to the spider
ascending to safe shelter under the sill (after I blow
on her to amuse myself), washing my favorite knife
and wondering if I should hone it, not to mention
my skills on the six-string or the potato peeler.
And if I linger at the plates, even the chipped one,
admiring their gleam after hot water rinses away
the soap residue, who could question the quick gulp
of ale or the shuffle of an almost-but-not-quite
dance step-or-stumble while arranging them on the
ribbed rack, back-to-back, in time to Coltrane’s
solo. Then the forgotten food processor’s blade
bites my palm, and I remember that I’ve outgrown
the dark suit, the cut branches still need bundling
and none of the words I’ve conjured and shaped
over decades and miles will extend their comfort
when I stand at my father’s grave this week or next.

 

“The Resonance of No,” was published in December 2016 in Gravel, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second.

Daniel Schnee wrote about this poem here.

Music Credit: Cool Vibes Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/