May I Be Familiar


May I Be Familiar

Do we find you in what you’ve left or where you’ve gone.

In words you could not form, or forgot long ago.

Missing the pastels, the shades, all nuance.

With moistened hands, I pat rice into a ball and wrap it in seaweed.

By my reckoning, the word who no longer implicates.

Ritual accumulates significance in memory.

Forgotten fruit on the sill. A whisper nailed to the wall.

Honor and pride line your earthen home.

Though you never did, I pickle ginger. Make takuan.

The transparent house reflects no gaze and contains no one.

Gathering your absence, I coil it around my body.

* * *

“May I Be Familiar” is included in my mini-digital chapbook, Interval’s Night, published by Platypus Press as part of their 2412 series.


Every Wind

Every Wind

Every wind loses itself,
no matter where

it starts. I want
a little piece of you.

No.

I want your atmosphere
bundled in a small rice paper packet
and labeled with strings of new rain
and stepping stones.

I want
the grace of silence
blowing in through the cracked
window, disturbing only
the shadows.

Everywhere I go, bits of me linger,
searching for you.

Grief ages one thread at a time,

lurking like an odor
among the lost
things,

or your breath,
still out there,

drifting.


“Every Wind” first appeared in The Lake in July 2016.

I’ll Turn But Clouds Appear

spaghetti

 

I’ll Turn But Clouds Appear

You gather and disperse and nothing I do salves my hunger.
Where are you, if not here among the roots of dead flowers

or inches below the window’s opening
in the leaf-filtered light. Or spread across

the ceiling, caught in filaments of expelled
hope. Savoring motion, I look up and address the Dog Stars,

longing to catch your attention. But clouds muffle
my words, and instead I turn

to the fragrance of tomato and garlic and spice
wafting into the night. What could bring you back?

Not love. Not wine. Not solitude, nor the sound of my voice.
I spoon out the sauce, cautiously, and wait.

* * *

“I’ll Turn but Clouds Appear” first appeared in Bindlestiff.

treecloud

Ashes

file0001138262091

 

Ashes

To sweeten the dish, add salt. To bear the pain,
render the insoluble. She envied

the past its incursions, yet the past yields to all,
avoidance to acceptance, trees to smoke.

My mother brought to this country a token of her death to come.

Now it sits on my shelf bearing implements of music.
In her last days I played Sakura on the mandolin,

trusting that she might find comfort
in the blossoms fluttering through the failing notes,

a return to mornings
of tea and rice, of
warmth and paper walls and deep laughter.

Today the rain spells forgive

and every idea becomes form, every shadow a symptom,
each gesture a word, a naming in silence.

Scatter me in air I’ve never breathed.

* * *

“Ashes,” first appeared in Extract(s) in 2013, was reprinted on The Reverie Poetry Journal, and is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

DSC_0206

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

Setting Fire to the Origami Crane

origami

Setting Fire to the Origami Crane (the one floating on Muscongus Bay) at Sunset

Who is to say which comes first, the flaming crane
or the sunset’s burst just over the horizon

and under the clouds? There are causes and causations,
an illness named bad air and another attributed to wolf

bites, neither accurate. There is the paraffin to melt,
and the folded paper resting comfortably nearby, with

a small, unopened tin of shoe polish and the sound of
tears striking newsprint. You know the myth of the

Viking burial — the burning ship laden with treasure
and the deceased clothed in all his finery. But pyres

are lighted to make ash of bodies, to ease the soul’s
transition to the heavens. Think of how disturbing

it would be to come upon the charred lumps of your
loved one washed ashore. And other myths — various

versions of the afterlife created to bend wills and
foster hope where little exists — to which have you

departed? There are no returns in your future, no more
givings, and your ashes have dispersed among the clouds

and in the water. They’ve been consumed by earth and
sky, inhaled and swallowed, digested, coughed out but

never considered for what they were. So I’ve printed
your name a thousand times on this sheet, and will

fold and launch it, aflame, watching the letters that
comprise you, once again, rise and float, mingle

and interact, forming acquaintances, new words,
other names, partnerships, loves, ascending to the end.

 

This was written for the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge. To read the story behind the poem’s title (which I was unaware of), you might visit Jilanne Hoffman’s blog.

Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

file3461249385398

Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

Five White cat always made sure
no rats gnawed my books,
but this morning Five White died.

On the river I offered up rice and fish,
and buried you in its lazy currents,
chanting my lament. I could never neglect you.

One time you caught a rat
and carried it squealing around the yard
to frighten all the other rats
and keep my cottage clear of them.

We’ve shared space aboard this boat,
and although the food is meager
it’s free of rat piss and droppings
because you were so diligent,
more so than any chicken or pig.

Some people speak highly of horses,
saying nothing compares to them or donkeys.
But we’re done with that discussion!

My tears prove it so.

The transliteration from Chinese-poems.com:

Self have 5 white cat
Rat not invade my books
Today morning 5 white die
Sacrifice with rice and fish
See off it at middle river
Incantation you not you neglect
Before you bite one rat
Hold in mouth cry around yard remove
Want cause crowd rat frightened
Thought will clear my cottage
From board boat come
Boat in together room live
Dry grain although its thin
Evade eat drip steal from
This real you have industriousness
Have industriousness surpass chicken pig
Ordinary person stress spur horse drive
Say not like horse donkey
Already finish not again discuss
For you somewhat cry

A Song Dynasty poet, Mei Yao-ch’en (or Mei Yaochen) died in 1060. His great poems live on.

This adaptation first appeared in November 2014, and is for one of my favorite poets, Jeff Schwaner, whose Mei Yao-ch’en sequence has entertained, inspired and enlightened me. You can find the sequence here: http://jeffschwaner.com/mei-yao-chen-sequence/

DSC_1646