Four Poems Up at As Above So Below

I’m delighted that four of my shakuhachi poems are up at As Above So Below, which also includes two poems by Stephanie L. Harper (one of which was written while under COVID-19’s breath-crushing grip) and pieces by Kate Garret, Sarah Law, Mark Tulin and others you might recognize. Many thanks to editor Bethany Rivers for taking these pieces.

Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

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This poem is dedicated to the memory of haiku master and good friend Ron Evans, who provided and sponsored the title for the Tupelo Press 30/30 fundraiser challenge I participated in during August 2015. Ron passed away in September 2018. I miss our pun-filled exchanges, his zany sense of humor and our wide-ranging discussions. Life continues, but the light has dimmed…

Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

They say the wind in Alvarado bypasses closed doors, slips through
book-laden walls and plate glass and into your dreams where it circles
and accumulates, whirling, whirling, steadily gaining force, gathering
loose pages and errant thoughts and memories too combustible to
burn, ignoring time’s compression and the gravity of dying suns, forever
counting, talking, thinking, looking up and out between the long nights.

unable to sleep           he opens a window          daring the wind

The 30th President of the United States breathes and writes at the junction
of an invisible house and a wheat field in Alvarado, in the guise of a
74-year old haiku poet. No longer the solemn ass, Cal laughs and speaks
and observes his two birthdays, recalling Harding’s scandals and Dorothy
Parker’s “How can they tell?” with equal relish. Sometimes he dresses
in tails and top hat, and speaks in 17-syllable phrases. Sometimes.

spitting out sake            in the shadow’s glare            death forestalled

Alvarado’s laureate is leaving it all behind – the presidency, the books,
the kolaches – catching the next breeze out of town, a silver-tongued
dust devil riding the word, spewing puns all the way to Indiana. But
buried in a waterproof box near Oswald’s grave, 314 cassette tapes
capable of shattering crystal carry his voice further than their unwound
lengths, whirring incessantly, celebrating life, praising the long wind.

standing in the sun          wisdom blows by          no questions today

alamo3

Dispatches from the Pandemic: This Old Desk

Dispatches from the Pandemic: This Old Desk

This old desk whispers hints of lives lived in separate peripheries, of unseen treasures and thoughts and deeds. Whose fountain pen scrawled love notes on the inlaid leather pullout, which daughter broke a crystal finger bowl and wept for a lost pet? What books rested behind these glass doors? What curiosities? Old pocket knives, polished stones? Spent cartridges? And in these slots? Perhaps perfume bottles and note pads. Or unanswered letters and a worn deck of playing cards. A tin box of regrets, another of joy.

Haiku and Whitman
mingling behind beveled glass
Look: my mother’s ashtray

The desk and I are slowly making our acquaintance. I pledge that I will never take its untold history for granted, that I’ll respect its presence and do my utmost to fill it with purpose, with cherished objects and the satisfaction of good work. In turn it offers me solidity, an altar at which to sit and think, to rearrange words, create lists, read, conjure fantasies, breathe. I’ve only just realized that I’ve lacked such a base since abandoning my Texas shack fifteen months ago.

Another window
frames the distant crow
Home at last!

Rain Haibun

 

Rain Haibun

Watching that thought slide down the wall
into the grass. Losing it and the next,
celebrating each. How quickly the body
accepts decay. This knee, those arteries.
A fragmented life. Not even the rain
brings us back.

 

The ticking roof
swells with thunder.
My old friends, waiting.

 

* * *

“Rain Haibun” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.

 

 

Emptying Haibun

 

Emptying Haibun

Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.

exhaling, I note

smudges in the sky —

oh, dirty window

 

Creek Haibun

 

Creek Haibun

The creek’s waters flow so quickly that I make little headway in my attempt to cross. A water moccasin slips by, and my left boot takes on water. This is not real, I say. We’ve had no rain and I would not be so foolish as to do this. Asleep? Perhaps, but I’ve passed the halfway point and have no choice but to move forward. I slip and nearly pitch headfirst into the dark current. Lightning stitches the sky.

dreaming, the snake

swims against floodwaters

oh, what have I lost?

 

Countdown, #1: Pain (Haibun)

 

My last five posts of 2019 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

 

Pain

Pain reminds me that I’m breathing, still able to appreciate the fragrance of French roast coffee brewing, the diced red pepper, onion and jalapeño mixture sizzling in the pan. Today is a good day. When I roll out the dough for the onion tart, the leg barely protests, and as I sip ginger tea while the tart bakes, no throb interrupts my pleasure.

Sometimes the hip shocks me with its barbed lance attack, or the knee rasps “not today, sonny,” and I grimace, concentrate on deliberate forward movement, one short step followed by another, into the kitchen or down the steps to the shack.

Music soothes, as does poetry, but occasionally the weight of the guitar is more than the leg can bear. Still, when I manage to lose myself in a tune or a few phrases, I drift in their currents, weightless, free.

 

Oh, to climb that hill
among those lost maples
Look — my shoe’s untied

 

* * *

“Pain” first appeared in The Zen Space in July 2018.

 

Texas Haibun

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Texas Haibun

I dream of poetry in all its forms, rising and flowing and subsiding without end, much like ice shrugging within itself. Last winter a hard freeze split a valve on the downstream side of the cistern. Had it cracked even a few inches up-line there would have been no need to replace the valve.

captive rain recalls
its journey towards the ground
the garden returns

The well terminates at 280 feet. The water is hard, but cool, and tastes of dark limestone and ancient rains.

Even the gnarled live oaks have dropped their leaves. Grass crunches underfoot and smells like dead insects and dried herbs. Mosquitoes have vanished. Only the prickly pears thrive. Their flowers are bright yellow and bloom a few days each year.

sauteed with garlic
nopalitos on my plate
their thorns, forgiven

I wipe sweat from my forehead with the back of the glove, and wonder how many ounces of fluid have passed through my body this year, how the rain navigates from clouds through layers of soil and stone, only to return, how a cold beer might feel sliding down my throat.

stoking the fire
winter rain whispers to me
forget tomorrow

 

* * *

Originally posted in February, 2014, this was my first attempt at a haibun.

 

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Chili, Chocolate and Chihuahuas

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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.

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Rain Haibun

 

Rain Haibun

Watching that thought slide down the wall
into the grass. Losing it and the next,
celebrating each. How quickly the body
accepts decay. This knee, those arteries.
A fragmented life. Not even the rain
brings us back.

 

The ticking roof
swells with thunder.
My old friends, waiting.

 

* * *

“Rain Haibun” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.