Empty Cup

Empty Cup

I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.

With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.

Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.

If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to quiver, but only the tiniest edge emerges. I am nothing, I say. I am voice, I am loss, I am name. I am memory. I am son.

I have fifty-nine years
and no wisdom to show for it.
Never enough. Too much.

Missing Loved Ones

Missing Loved Ones

You marvel that a simple garment retains so much of a person’s
being. I watch the worm swinging on its long thread

from one side of the door’s frame to the other,
wondering how to avoid it should I go out, but a sparrow

solves that problem. In 365 BC, Gan De detected what was likely
Ganymede, but history records no other sightings until Galileo

in January, 1610. Thus an entity with twice the mass of our
moon went missing for 1,900 years, which helps explain

the parameters of oblivion. But nothing equals the heft
and gravitational pull of those we miss – the dead, the gone,

the lost, the never-coming-back – a friend’s laughter
still echoing twenty years later, a lover’s taste and smell

rekindled with each autumn’s first fire, or the dog’s warmth.
Small wonder that we ever exit the house, leaving these

companions behind. I watch the sparrow snatch another
snack, and consider the mechanics of loss. Ubiquitous, but

generated anew. Unique yet common, unfelt and devastating.
Late at night, you say, I draw comfort from cloth, stroke

the once inhabited trousers or the flannel sheets resting
in the drawer. This scarf, her love. That shirt, my heart.

“Missing Loved Ones” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published in Eclectica in summer 2017. Many thanks to editor Jen Finstrom for accepting the poem, and to Emily Bailey, good friend of many years and former office mate, for sponsoring the poem and suggesting the title.

The Resonance of No

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/

Cantilever

 

Cantilever

1

Night skitters over the mounds,
avoiding the blue flowers
She bears the horizon’s gold.

2

No one stands alone.
Our sky is of earth, dark
soil packed with the living.

3

I do not seek mercy.
The cliff frog chirps its song
and the fog closes in.

4

Suspended, hope
wraps around her,
one foot on the ground.

Another Bird, Rising

Another Bird, Rising

The shadow behind you slides over
the ceiling, up and gone,

a wingless silence. The drafted swirl.
One morning shifts into two, and still

you won’t give in, each moment’s
gasp another one earned, a measurable

notch on the table’s edge, quarters
in the magic purse. They all count.

Pills, chemo, radiation. Ocean to sky.
Houses to ash. Your eyes see black.

“Another Bird, Rising” first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016.

Meditation in White

lily

Meditation in White (Lilies)

Clouds pass my high window quickly, abandoning the blue.
Indefinite mass, indeterminate, impersonal

as only intimates may know.
Though you lay there, nothing remained in the bed.

Which is the blank page’s gift, the monotone
or a suggestion of mist and stripped bones.

The nurse marked the passage with pen on paper.
Renewal, departure. A rising.

I accept the ash of suffering
as I accept our destination, the morning

and its offerings, with you in synthesis,
complete and empty, shaded in contrast,

wilting, as another opens. Laughter eases the way.

***

page

This was first published in Shadowtrain, and made its first appearance here in March 2016.

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.