The Ecstatics


The Ecstatics

Divisions and separations, a summing of consequences,
the brother whose ashes remained forever lost. Two cities
and their survivors’ shame. The loud, kind young man
whose words fell to the restaurant’s floor, unbidden.
What came next in the drift, untoward and misspent,
in the grammar of between? Darkness, suppressed.
Smoke. Pleasure and fear, unclothed.

sorrow bw

“The Ecstatics” first appeared here in January 2016. It’s an odd piece, part of a larger sequence that I put on hold several years ago. Perhaps I’ll return to it someday.

Letter to Wright from Between Gusts


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.

Memory and Closets


Memory and Closets


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.


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.


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.


* * *

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

When to Say Goodbye


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.

Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine


Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine

Things expand. Plans change. Clouds disperse,
people move. I remember swimming

through a dream’s warm water, and rising
for air only to find that I no longer lived

within that need, in that space demanding
the physiological transport of oxygen,

where the laws of physics reigned supreme,
and geometry, with a little luck, posited

all the right questions. And then the clock
blared and morning slammed me back.

Trees grow, as do needs and lives and even
cottages. We took down the dead Jack pine

that year, and drank skip-and-go-nakeds
by the pitcherful, while mosquitoes swarmed

me and ignored everyone else. It’s important,
but I still can’t recall the white pine, nor

where you planted it forty-three years ago.
Symbol or not, its treeness intrudes.

So we suffer these things with age, and if
what we cut down carries meaning beyond

cellulose and shade, bark and pine scent,
we’ll bear that mourning, too. So fuel your

saw, brother, and sharpen the chain. Today
becomes yesterday. Tomorrow never waits.


* * *

“Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine” was drafted during the Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge in August 2015, and was published by Quiet Letter in April 2017.


Summer 1966: After France & Remembering Bobby, Who One Day Would Learn to Multiply and Divide, Write Love Poems, Define Home, Fight Unfairly and Live with as Much Gusto as a 7-Year Old. Perhaps.

Summer 1966: After France & Remembering Bobby,
Who One Day Would Learn to Multiply and Divide,
Write Love Poems, Define Home, Fight Unfairly and
Live with as Much Gusto as a 7-Year Old. Perhaps.

From left coast to right, or the wide arc between,
which place claimed you? In New York you marveled
at the building’s backs scratched by clouds, and all your
pale cousins in Baltimore spoke strangely and couldn’t fathom
your nuclear family’s private lingo, while the drive to Texas
and its red ants and iced tea blossomed into adventures between
pages in the back seat of the VW bug. By the second week you
learned that Texans sweat as much as the French, and swear even
more, that you couldn’t fight one twin without taking on the other,
sometimes both at once. There was no question of fairness then,
just brotherhood, but the librarian would slip you the choicest
donated fiction, and you played baseball every day in the vacant lot
until sundown called the players home to black and white body
counts and cigarette commercials on the three channels received.
Sometimes you lay in bed under the half-light of the whirring
fan blades, and dreamt of heroes and ornithopters, zebras
and the scent of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Other nights
you wondered how words could rest so calmly on one page yet
explode off the next, or why a man would climb a tower in Austin
to kill fourteen people when opportunities for mayhem and murder
burgeoned across the sea. Wasn’t living a matter of simple
subtraction? One by one the days parted and you walked through
that dwindling heat, eyes squinting, questions in hand, emerging
fifty years later having suffered additions and division and the
cruelties of love and success, honor and truth, still asking why
and how, home or house, where it went, your shoulders slumping
under the heft of those beautiful, terrible summers stacked high
like so many life-gatherings of unread books awaiting a bonfire.

This was first published in theSilver Birch Press “Moving” series, and an earlier version titled “Bonjour, Texas” appeared on the blog A Holistic Journey.

How to Take an Amazing Photo of a Solar Eclipse

Today, of all days, I just had to reblog Stephanie L. Harper’s poem!


Eclipse.PNG“Solar Eclipse with Sunspots” by Matthew Harper

get knocked up,
plan a wedding in three months
and waddle down the aisle in white pumps
that fit you when you bought them. 

Gain a total of forty-eight pounds
while throwing up for forty weeks,
and give birth to a nine-pound baby boy,
who is bigger and cries louder than any other
newborn in the maternity ward. 

After you blink once or twice,
find yourself moving across the country
for your husband’s engineering job,
with three cats, the six-week old baby,
and all of their respective paraphernalia
crammed into a purple minivan. 

Critical Step: Raising Your Boy
To do this, start learning more about more things than you knew existed;
begin appreciating that this cherubic, gorgeous,
but almost alien issue of your loins
sees individual ice crystals in distant clouds,
hears crickets chirping at dusk
over the sound of rush-hour traffic,

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