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/

 

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, just rediscovered.

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.

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.

 

Recording of “The Body Gives”

 

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.

 

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)” is included in my recently released chapbook, I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes), still available here at the pre-publication price of $7.50.

ascent

“Palinode (salt, mask, descent)” was first published in Otoliths in slightly different form.