Gaza

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Gaza

We presume affliction by census,
whereas light

requires no faith.
Is the roofless house a home? When you call
who answers? The vulture

spreads its wings
but remains on post. Shifting,
I note minute of angle, windage. No

regrets, only tension. Breathe in. Exhale.
Again.

***

“Gaza” first appeared here in July, 2014, and is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

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Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

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Dark Rain Ahead, Hummingbird

The black-chinned hummer buzzes my flowered shirt,
bringing to mind the letter H, its history of an inferior life among

letters, and a Phoenician origin signifying fence.

An aspirate dependent upon others, or a line strung between posts,

even whispered, H does not contain itself.
Disconsolate or annoyed, the bird moves on.

Do names depend upon the power of symbols, or do they power the symbols?

In the 6th century A.D., Priscian disparaged H, saying it existed only to accompany.

Clouds shade the way.
The black-chin extends its grooved tongue at a rate of 15 licks per second.

Alone, the H’s voice is barely audible.

Through the trees, across the crushed rock driveway and beyond the barbed wire

and chain link, I hear deadfall snapping under hooves.
At rest, its heart beats an average of 480 beats per minute.

Modern Greek denies its existence.

Say khet, say honor and where. Say hinge, sigh and horse. Say depth.

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Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013,  it subsequently appeared here in June 2015.

You Are the Wind That Trusted

cave painting

You Are the Wind That Trusted

The barriers I could not place, the incomplete lines and unmouthed
verbs registered in stone, saying I am here,

as if taw were born in evil, and not the fruit of the need to mark.

At what velocity must sand scour these walls to obliterate the hand’s
intent? How may we gauge design? Galileo’s thermoscope

crudely measured temperature variation, but in 1612 Santorio added a numerical scale.

For centuries, T did not produce a miniscule and stood tall in its singular representation.

Hydrated iron oxide, mixed with bone marrow and charcoal, yields
ochre, a formula that predates writing.

Development, not invention.

T’s varying structure may be one of sequence and slippage.

Thermoscopes were open ended tubes dependent upon air pressure.
Celsius originally proposed a scale with 0 at the boiling point.

A cruciform. The capped spike. Blended tongues.

Complexity intrudes with every step: smoke-darkened ceiling.

***

This appeared on the blog in February 2016. A slightly different version appeared in Otolith in fall 2013.

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Elegies for the Night (2002)

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Elegies for the Night (2002)
                                        for W

1
You might palm a small token, damp and misshapen as the words
you expel, never admitting the dark truth.

Or the plundered life, neither black nor white, invisible yet whole.

Someone prays, yet all around silence reigns and the snow melts.

Possibilities cleansed in the light of misplaced certainty.

2
The charred wind’s fruit bears little resemblance to its predecessor.

And later, within the garden’s stones, what remains
but an acrid taste on the tongues of the speechless?

And if the bones have dispersed where might their thoughts reside?

The wind takes nothing it does not want.

The wind wants nothing.

Nothing remains.

                    I am afraid, she said. Please tell me.

3
Though the moon returns in its diminished
state, I shall not listen. Words

turn back and eat
themselves, exposing intent

behind form, consonants beneath
vowels lying in wait. Abandonment.

And further senseless
debates: gain from loss, shock and awe,
the incessant demand for others to do

not what you would do but what you would have them do.
I claim no insight,

but even the light you reveal burns unclean.

4
Despair and its siblings fall to mind.
Scarcities: clean water, air, the simplest meal

when ashes swirl and fingers burn long after
the rain. My son, my son,

and other cries lost in the sand.
If he listened what sounds could he bear,

what sights, which odors? I tremble and lie still.

* * *

“Elegies for the Night” first appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine in April 2014.

 

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Endurance, 1946

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Endurance, 1946

Unaware of the day’s movements, she paints her
reply to the bracelet of light flaring above

the horizon. Tomorrow’s edict is gather,
as in retrieving a sister’s bones in black

rain, reassembling in thought
a smile that could not endure despite

its beauty. I seek a place
of nourishment and find empty bowls.

What is the symbol for peace, for planet?
How do we relinquish the incinerated voice?

Under the vault of ribs lie exiled words, more
bones, and beneath them, relentless darkness.

And whose bodies mingle in this earth?
Whose tongue withers from disuse?

The eight muscles react to separate stimuli,
four to change shape and four to alter position.

Turning, she places the brush on the sill
and opens the window to the breeze.

Exit the light, exit all prayer. Ten strokes
form breath. She does not taste the wind.

Atomic Bomb Dome_03

“Endurance, 1946” first appeared here in January 2015, and was published in Fahmidan Journal in November 2020. Thank you editors Ranna Kisswani and Anthony R. Salandy for taking this piece.

 

Scarecrow Questions

scarecrow

 

Scarecrow Questions

Though my tongue withers from disuse and
drought, I taste from across the sea astringent
smoke and the progeny of a hundred bullets
buzzing by like misguided insects through
the theater of the dying, and I question how
pride and greed, hubris and fear, unwind their
cords to detonate these differing yet tangled
lines. How to fathom such depth of mistrust?
The Christian paints her door frames azure, a
Muslim carpets his tile floor, the Jew panels his
walls, yet among each, various segments clash,
and all of their houses implode. I feel nothing,
yet shiver throughout the sun-blazed afternoon.
Then I consider the structure of zero, whether its
body contains or extracts, negates or compromises,
hollows out duplicates within duplicates, exorcising
with a blade so sharp as to peel away memory from
those it crosses without the faintest murmur. Gone.
Erased. Banished to never having been. I neither
breathe nor digest, but I absorb and recall. How do
you so willingly forget history? This post determines
my destination, but not my destiny, not tomorrow’s
promise, nor the returning birds and faith, the long
nights, their stars, their deaths, the following days.

 

Eifel

“Scarecrow Questions” first appeared here in February 2016.

Palinode (egg, politics, pathology)

 

Palinode (egg, politics, pathology)

Who determines completion if not the morning’s best
layer? The answer is what comes first, not the
question, which replenishes the old deviltry: I am not
whole: I am partial: I am absent: you. Please define
node. Taking exception, rules mediate the norm. Fried,
poached, scrambled, radiated, coddled, baked, raw,
boiled, I serve myself, and in turn am served, when,
truth be told, I’d rather serve you. Twice.

I’d rather serve you twice than be pushed aside, a
thimbleful of nectar fermented and forgotten in
someone’s late pantry. Or worse, cast into the Pacific,
swallowed by a Fukushima-fed tuna, caught and
auctioned to an Alaskan sushi chef and left to molder
at week’s crossing. The point at which a wave has an
amplitude of zero, or a pathological swelling. That one
moment of clarity before night’s fall.

That one moment of clarity before night’s fall at
Juneau’s 716 Calhoun Avenue, which posits the
ability to see beyond sight: the blind hen produces
more, never pausing to consider repercussive issues.
Progeny, pathological swellings, statements of the
incurious. Do we use squirmish? I take, or am given,
offense. Without you, I am the silence preceding the
letter, an untoward growth, the silence remaining.

Without you, I am the silence preceding the letter
terminating at vision’s end: a fence, the Phoenician
form which birthed H, or two posts joined at
midsection and later, abandoned. Breach. Enough.
One’s last egg brought to fruition, a terminus in
thought or language carelessly placed. A bruising
point between vanishing waves or carted through
our long nights. Denial. The pathology revealed.

 

 

 

“Palinode (eggs, politics, pathology) first appeared at ISACOUSTIC* in October 2019. Many thanks to editor Barton Smock for his tireless efforts to promote poetry and poets.

 

 

A Brief History of Babel

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A Brief History of Babel


Borders, windows.
Sound.

Trudging up the steps, I am winded after six flights,
my words smothered in the breathing.

The Gate of God proffers no favors.
When the spirit gives me utterance, what shall I say?

Curiously, no direct link exists between Babel and babble.

A collective aphasia could explain the disruption. One’s
inability to mouth the proper word, another’s
fluency impeded by context.

A stairway terminating in clouds.

Syllable by twisted syllable, dispersed.

Separated in symbols.
And then,
writing.

To see the sunrise from behind a tree, you must face
east: higashi, or, a discrete way of seeing
the structure of language unfold.
Two characters, layered. One
thought. Direction.
Connotation. The sun’s
ascent viewed through branches
as through the frame
of a glassless
window.

Complexity in simplicity.
Or the opposite.

I have no desire to touch heaven, but my tongues reach where they will.

Who can know what we say to God, but God?

And the breeze winding through, carrying fragments.

 

* * *

 

My poem, “A Brief History of Babel,” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Month celebration in February 2017.

 

 

Shoe

blueshoe

 

Shoe

The right has only one option,
as is true of the left,

neither to mingle
nor disappear like washed socks

or loved ones in a casino.
There are those who believe

in fallen towers and pasts
burnished beyond recognition,

and truth, as it was written, for them,
in blood, with money inherited

from thieves. The puddle happens.
The door rotates. A snifter shatters.

The shoe’s approach defines its wearer.

 

* * *

This first appeared in March 2016, but somehow seems even more appropriate today.

 

cactus shoe

 

Galveston, 1900

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Galveston, 1900

First the wind, then a tide like no other
uprooting the calm,

a visage tilted back in descent
as if listening for the aftermath.

And later, the gardener’s lament
and the building’s exposed ribs,

light entering the eternal
orchard, nine children tied to a cincture.

Not even the earth could retain its bodies,
and the sea remanded those given to its care.

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“Galveston, 1900” first appeared here in January 2015.