While Trespassing I Note the Sadness of Old Fences

 

While Trespassing I Note the Sadness of Old Fences

I write poems when I can,
in late morning or during

the afternoon, between chores
but before dinner. And sometimes

I duck through spaces
void of wire barbs, and consider

how to fill the incomplete, which words,
what materials could repair

those particular holes. I cut my own
fence once, to access our house

when the creek flooded the road,
lugging uphill through the snake

grass a jug of scotch, my mandolin
and a watermelon, essentials for a weekend’s

respite. To be truthful I cut only the lowest
strand, to help the dog get through — I

was able to climb over, but he couldn’t dig
through the limestone rubble to wriggle

under, and we’d come too far
to simply turn around.

 

* * *

This appeared in riverSedge, Volume 29, Issue 1, released in October 2016. I first encountered riverSedge in 1983, and vowed that one day my poetry would be published in this journal. It took a while…

 

Mother’s Day (with recording)

 

Mother’s Day

The dog is my shadow and I fear his loss. My loss.
I cook for him daily, in hope of retaining him.

Each regret is a thread woven around the oak’s branches.
Each day lived is one less to live.

Soon the rabbits will be safe, and the squirrels.
As if they were not. One morning

I’ll greet an empty space and walk alone,
toss the ball into the yard, where it will remain.

It is Mother’s Day.
Why did I not weep at my mother’s grave?

I unravel the threads and place them around the dog.
The wind carries them aloft.

 

“Mother’s Day” was published in The Lake in July 2016, and last appeared here in May 2019.

 

Buddha’s Not Talking

 

 

Buddha’s Not Talking

 

He looks out from the shelf while I consider
manure, sharp knives and the hagfish’s second
heart, or whether odors differ in texture when a dog

retraces his steps through the park, and do they really
lose themselves or just quickly shed their pasts,
forever moving towards now. Sometimes I say hello,

but truthfully we seldom interact, unless I bump his
shoulder when retrieving one of the books leaning
against him, and then it’s only a quick “sorry” on my

part, and a stare on his, perhaps a slight nod if
I’ve not yet had coffee. I fear I’ll never grasp
the difference in having and being, that my true

nature has splattered on a trail and the dogs will
sniff it and lift their legs in acknowledgment,
or perhaps acceptance of the infinite, with wisdom

far beyond my reach, before moving on to disquisitions
about soil and fragrance and the need to justify art
with decimal points. Yesterday I roasted chicken, moved

books, sipped ale. Today I’ll sweep, discard papers and
wonder if I’ll become what I think, whether reincarnation
will be cruel or kind. Either way, Buddha’s not talking.

 

* * *

“Buddha’s Not Talking” first appeared in July 2017 at Blue Bonnet Review.
With gratitude to editor Cristina Del Canto for taking this piece.

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

 

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

Five White cat always made sure no rats gnawed my books.
— Mei Yao-ch’en

His brain is squirming like a toad.
— Jim Morrison

 

Standing by the water, the poet wonders if,
as in this dream, his dead dog and Five White

might seize the separate ends of a rope and blend
their tugs, matching highs and lows, growls and purrs,

with near stillness, dawn to dusk and back again,
always equal, sharing through death their love

of work and honor. He throws a small branch
and asks the dog’s ghost to fetch, but it remains

at his side, as if reluctant to leave. How to release
what you no longer hold? Shadows disappear in direct

light, but always return at its departure. The
raindrop remains intact through its long plummet.

Words, though unspoken, hang like lofted kites
awaiting a new wind, a separate rhythm,

beyond compassion. He cannot hear it
but joins his dog in singing. The cat yowls along.

 

This piece first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016, and was drafted during the August 2015 30-30 challenge. Thanks to Jeff Schwaner for providing the title (which I edited for publication).

 

 

While Walking My Dog’s Ghost

bunny 

 

While Walking My Dog’s Ghost

I spot a baby rabbit
lying still in a clump of grass
no wider than my hand.

It quivers, but I pretend
not to have seen, for fear
that the dog, ghost or not,

will frighten and chase it
into the brush, beyond
its mother’s range,

perhaps to become lost
and thirsty, malnourished,
filthy, desperate, much

like the dog when we
found each other that hot,
dry evening so long ago.

 

jackboy

This first appeared here in September 2016.

 

Shadow (with Recording)

image

 

 

Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

 

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

image

Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

Forever

photo

 

Forever

Our dogs hide under the bed,
escaping thunder.

But the sun shatters
a cloud and I know

we will live forever.
Each hour is the sky,

every day, another
star. Now the trees

join the wind
in rejoicing. This

is what we make,
they say. Only this.

 

* * *

“Forever” made its last appearance here in April 2018.

DSCN8545

 

When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

dried

 

 

When to Say Goodbye

 If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers

while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago

I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting

precedes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after

another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.

Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not

one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her

father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.

I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.

In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.

 

* * *

 

“When to Say Goodbye,” drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, was published by Oxidant | Engine in May 2017, and subsequently nominated for a Best of the Net 2017 award.

 

Chili, Chocolate and Chihuahuas

image

Chili, Chocolate and Chihuahuas

I am comfortably nestled in this house, sorting the pages of an unruly poetry manuscript in the company of Apollonia, the six-pound terror of Texas, and Ozymandias, her doting, but worried, twelve-pound shadow. As noon departs I note hunger’s first tentative touch, and head to the grocery store for supplies. I’m craving chili, but not having a particular recipe in mind, decide to see what strikes my fancy.

Ah, the sun at last!
No more rain, the yard’s drying.
Our dogs, shivering.

For my chili base I’ll sometimes toast dried ancho peppers, rehydrate and puree them, but I’ve recently replenished my chile powder stock (ancho, chipotle, New Mexico, cayenne, smoked paprika) and feel just a tad lazy, so I’ll use the powdered stuff. But I pick up a poblano, some jalapeños and two onions, and on my way to the meat counter, grab a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes and some spiced tomato sauce. I examine the beef and nothing entices me (ground beef is anathema, and don’t even mention beans!), but a few paces away I spy a small pork roast, and place it in my cart alongside a 16-oz bottle of Shiner Bock and a bag of chocolate chips.

Knowing my plans, the
cashier smiles and shakes her head.
Milk chocolate chips?

Shuffling the manuscript pages, I ask the dogs for their input, but Apollonia declines, preferring to nap in a sunbeam, and Ozzie is too busy pacing to bother with poetry. So I turn to the impending dinner, chop onion, dice peppers, mince garlic, measure out the various chile powders, cumin and oregano, cube the pork, and brown it in the Dutch oven.

Ozymandias
sits by the front door and moans.
Wind rattles the house.

Once the meat is seared, I saute the veggies, dump in the canned tomatoes and chile powder mixture, add the meat, coating it with the spices, and then pour in the Shiner Bock and heat it all to a near-boil before reducing the temperature and allowing it to simmer for an hour, at which point I stir in about four ounces of the chocolate chips and a teaspoon of garam masala. I let the chili simmer for another hour, then remove half of the pork, shred it with a fork (it’s very tender), and return it to the pot, stir, taste, and add a little salt. Done. I ladle out a bowl, pour a La Frontera IPA, and eat. Not bad, I think. Not bad at all for the first chili of the season.

Beer in hand, I burp,
the dogs stirring underfoot.
Oh, this wondrous world!



* * *

I first posted this in December 2015. The recent snowfall and frigid weather is making me think about chili. Mmmmm.

image

Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something
, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.