My poem “My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” has been published in December’s issue of The Lake. Thank you, John Murphy, for taking this poem!
Trying to give, I fail too often.
But this day we prepare for you
food that your beloved often cooked,
made with the ingredients of 19,000
nights and promises of more to come.
These potatoes. That beef, the fruit.
Simple, and yet so difficult to reproduce.
Even the recipe is incomplete. “Some
mayonnaise,” it says, then “mustard,”
but not whether dry or prepared, and
the amount is unclear. Yet the results
transport you to stronger days, to
the clear-eyed self and limitless
possibilities, meals on the table
at five o’clock, the satisfaction of work
well done, knowing that you have soared
above your father’s imprecations
but never beyond love’s touch, her
sleepy murmurs, morning coffee,
burnished histories and late cigarettes,
the tulips on the soil you’ll soon share.
“Sunday, June” first appeared in the print journal Nourish in March 2018.
The Geography of Silence
1. Laundry drooping at midday.
2. She dreams off-key, in pastels.
3. With misunderstanding comes anger.
4. Mata! Mata! Again!
5. Ashes crossing the ocean.
6. Sweat, and the taste of separation.
7. Reaching for past moons, she cries.
8. Death’s shade.
10. Self-sacrifice, the centered gift.
11. Inward, always. Inward.
“The Geography of Silence” last appeared here in April 2017.
My poems “Letter to Schnee from the Stent’s Void” and “Genealogy Dream” are live in Issue 4 of Lost River literary magazine. Many thanks to editor Leigh Cheak for publishing these two.
I count more graves than people in my sleep,
but nothing turns more quickly
than an empty wind
in a place whose memory has died.
And all manner of departure: What you have left is you
without you. As if it could be different, as if decades
could withdraw and draft a blueprint of motive and action,
returning them, returning you, to that point
across the sea where the ship has not yet arrived.
If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.
To be within, yet without, as in the unuttered phrase.
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
to render the void clear and resolute, the diction of
separation divided by decades and your ocean.
The language of silence, drawn near.
3. From the Other Side
Sometime becomes never and steps around a desolate corner,
and all we have left is our field
awash in stone, remnants of the unspoken.
I have no memory of you. Nor you, of me,
but the strands do not lie, and unraveled,
expose the imperfect blends
that compose my love. A leaky roof. The last word.
A pity to put up at all
but there is rain.
4. Another Night
Of all the hours which were the longest?
The earth trembled around me
and I lay still, bearing witness to
the uncertain malice of its
shrug, shoulders brought to
fore, then returned,
and finally, released. If,
after this half-century, words
could reform in your mouth,
what denial would issue?
Ashes, washing ashore.
And seeing you only as the shadow of an
ending whose voice lies
in an uncommon past, how
may we recognize the very shape we share?
The bridge’s fate is loneliness,
knowing that one side
decries the other’s
call, that separation affords new light:
they are between
comfort and space, between words and a smile,
between nothingness and sorrow,
two points, beginning and end,
reaching, in opposition, towards each other.
“What you have left is you without you” is from Edmond Jabes’s “At the Threshold of the Book” in The Book of Questions: Volume I, translated by Rosemary Waldrop.
“It is time the stone made an effort to flower” is from Paul Celan’s poem “Corona,” included in Poems of Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger.
“A pity to put up at all but there is rain” is from Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns, translated by Cid Corman and Kamake Susumu.
Albert Huffstickler’s poem “Bridges” which appeared in The Balcones Review in 1987, begins “They are between…”
“Elegy” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry in October 2017.
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.
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.