Portrait in Ash

blue-smoke


Portrait in Ash

In summer, sweet crushed ice, and crickets pulsing through the night.

Brake lights, and always the blurred memory of nicotine.

I recall running through the glow, laughing, fingers splayed forward,
and the ensuing sharp admonishment.

Steel, flint and spark. Blackened linings and diminishment.

How many washings must one endure to accept an indelible soiling?

In retrospect, your body still resists.

Lovely smoke uncoiling towards the moon, residue of impurities
and substance. Desire, freed and returning.

You dwell underground. I gaze at the cloud-marred sky.

 

* * *

“Portrait in Ash” appears in Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, available for free download from Platypus Press.

 

Memory and Closets

 

Memory and Closets

1

She came with the house.
A skull, spinal column, ribcage, tibia,

scapula – the list goes on, not quite to 206,
even including an extra lumbar vertebra.

Edna (long story) attended Halloween parties
and convivial gatherings, dressed in finery.

Silk suited her best, with linen falling just
behind. And hats! That green fedora,

like a parrot perched on a smiling egg,
never spoke, but stirred the conversation.

2

Old boots, worn left heel explaining the damaged meniscus.
Portable record player. Scratched vinyl.
Shopping bag of VHS tapes. Two empty scotch bottles.
The 30-year old suit that hasn’t been worn in 28 years.
Yellowed newspaper clippings of diet recipes.
The lost carton of wrapping paper.
A cheap guitar case, sans guitar.

3

If memory could speak, what would it not say?

Who else has rubbed this dust across his skin?

Only death is irrevocable.

In this darkness I find you.

Fearing withdrawal, we grow closer.

Things, and more things.

Everything we need travels with us.

Always.

 

* * *

This was originally drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and subsequently published in The Quiet Letter in April 2017. It’s original title, sponsored by Darryl Williams, was “Cleaning Out Closets in Anticipation of Moving Closer to Children.”

You can find The Quiet Letter’s 2018 interview with me here.

Somewhere: 28 Rue St. Jacques

 

Somewhere: 28 Rue St. Jacques

Or eating spam fried rice in the courtyard
after kindergarten, and playing cowboys
with Thierry, the kid next-door. We shared toys,
but not comics. Written language was hard

to decipher, unlike the spoken. I
never captured the nuances, and lost
the rest over the years. Today the cost
eludes me, like moths fluttering by. Try

to recall that particular morning light,
how it glanced off the French snow, and the
way our mother smiled at breakfast, no trace

of sadness, yet, the lines marking our heights
rising along the wall, limbs of a tree
we’d never climb, out there, somewhere, in space.

 

* * *

This was originally drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge. I was never satisfied with it, and didn’t see any reason to revise. But those memories are worth sharing!

 

Poems in Oxidant | Engine’s BoxSet Series, Vol. 2

 

“Letter to Wright” is included in my collection of twelve poems found in Volume 2 of Oxidant | Engine’s BoxSet Series. I’m proud to have my work appearing alongside that of such luminaries as José Angel Araguz, Dorothy Chan, John Sibley Williams and others.

At $12, the BoxSet is a steal, featuring ten poets, each with 10-15 pages of poetry. Where else can you purchase ten discrete collections at that price?

* * *

 

Letter to Wright from Between Gusts

Dear Tami: The wind here speaks an undiscovered language:
diffident, it lurks in the background, stuttering, fingering
everything, shifting directions, mocking us, barely noticeable
until it gets pissed off and BLOWS! Then, shit happens. Pickle
jars appear in purses. Love notes remain unwritten. Shingles
flap across the lawn and idiots are elected to office (nothing new,
I know). When I was a kid I marveled at those fortunates who
lived under the same roof for years, for decades, entire lives, while
my family rolled around the globe, collecting vaccination scars
like postcards or nesting dolls. How interesting, I thought then,
to know and be known, to avoid the perpetual newcomer’s
path. Having shared this house with my wife and various dogs,
birds, rodents, insects and arachnids for thirty-three years, I now
know this – home is not a stationary edifice. No cornerstone
defines it any better than fog rubbing the juniper’s tired back,
or courting mayflies announcing warmth’s arrival in their brief
pre-death interludes. Desire is a feckless mistress; after obtaining
the prize, we miss the abandoned and wonder what might have
been. When you arrive at your new town remember this: no one
is stranger to you than yourself. I speak from experience, having
absorbed differences at one end only to watch them emerge
hand-in-hand at the other, like newborn twins or nearly forgotten
reminders of an uncle’s kindness in a year of typhoons and sharp
replies and rebuilt lives. Home is a smile, a lover’s sleepy touch
at 3 a.m., or the secret knock between childhood friends reunited
after decades. It lives in soft tissue, not steel, and breathes water
and air, flame and soil and everything between. But it can’t exist
without your mind and body lugging it around. I would like to
tell you what the wind is saying, but it’s singing different tunes
these days, and my translation skills begin and end in that still
place between gusts, floating in the twilit air like so many empty
pockets. These are the only words I have. Not much to hang a hat
on, and I apologize for my shortcomings and inability to expound
with clarity. I speak in poetry, but mean well. May your moons
be bright and your winds wild yet gentle, even if you can’t fathom
their meaning. I’ll keep trying if you will. All the best, Bob.

 

 

“Letter to Wright from Between Gusts” was published at The Lake in August 2017. Many thanks to editor John Murphy for accepting this piece, and to T.S. Wright for inspiring it.

 

Recording of “My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar”

 

 

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

 

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 2018.

Ghazal of the Half

 

Ghazal of the Half  

Singing virtues, she swings to the east, claims half,
accepts what’s given, smiles, nods, names half.

What stone lies unturned in this bluest of graves?
Where love’s darkest lancet intrudes, inflames half.

The beauty of intercession and the divided become
one. Pushing them into two piles, she blames half.

Incomplete, I ride the lost memory’s pale vein,
as the motion of capture, of trickling, maims half.

You read the history of driftwood in its scars.
“Never whole. Always,” she exclaims, “half.”

My other name is a hill in a windstorm of sleep.
Forever apart and uneven, just the surname’s half.

 

“Ghazal of the Half” first appeared in Manzano Mountain Review in November, 2018. Many thanks to editors Justin Bendell and Kristian Macaron for taking this piece.