RO

Ro

When this note fades
will it join you in that place
above the sky
or below the waves
of the earth’s plump
body? Or will it
circle back, returning to
my lips and this
hollow day
to aspire again?

Note: Ro designates the fingering required to produce a particular note on the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute. In this case, closing all holes.

Recording of “Shadow Charm”

Shadow Charm

When you place your mouth
to my ear

how does the ocean know
which wave

to relinquish?
In your darkness I find teeth.

Blessings of the meek-throated.

A ribbed tunnel. Codicil.

Your tongue scrawls: too late,
the unsaid     nerve-sparked and

dilated     too late

And my skin replies: with
lightning     all strikes

count     to each its charge

“Shadow Charm” was published in August 2017 in The Icarus Anthology.

Steps

Steps

Up or down, it’s all the same.

How the knee or hip strains under the planet’s
surge. Opposite, and unequally felt.

One knows pain, the other does not.

Forever spinning, we remain still,
moving in place. Wanting.

As the heart pumps,
stronger for its labor,
accustomed to the effort.

2,000 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (and I still can’t resist)

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The subject of Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem is Translated, these four lines have not suffered from lack of translation. Gary Snyder’s rendition is beautiful – some might say perfect – as is Burton Watson’s. And then there’s Octavio Paz’s version. Yet I persist…

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com (which differs from that offered by Eliot Weinberger):

Empty hill not see person
Yet hear person voice sound
Return scene enter deep forest
Duplicate light green moss on

And my take:

Deer Sanctuary

There’s no one on this empty hill,
but I hear someone talking.
Sunlight trickles into the forest,
reflecting onto the green moss.

Time and again Weinberger objects to an explicit first person observer, but to my ear it flows better. I’ve tried to retain a sense of precision in observation and at least a hint of duality, and believe that I’ve succeeded, at least in part. Having carried this poem with me for more than two decades, only now have I felt up to the task of adapting it. I chose the title “Deer Sanctuary” because in my neck of the woods spaces enclosed by “game fences” are generally meant for hunting. We Texans do love our venison. But the poem, to me, is ultimately peaceful. Hence my title.

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This originally appeared on the blog in April 2014.

Portrait of Donald Trump as Poet Transforming into a Creature from Out of a Francis Bacon Painting

Ah, this poem by one of my favorite poets!

Shenandoah Breakdown

Photograph by Jose Padua

Sometimes I feel like I’m several billion dollars
worth of tax free income but all you want to do
is kill my high. Like I’ve just had a
poetry reading in an elegant theater,
attended by three hundred people,
which for poetry is big, it’s huge, but
all this guy with a poetry blog publishes
is a blurry photo of some sad bar where
ten drunk guys are nursing their craft beers
while I stand alone in a corner reading
my magnificent poem about how great I am.
That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.
And that’s why I didn’t have some other poet
read his work at my inauguration because
I’m the only poet worth reading nowadays
and I was too busy to read my own poems
while being inaugurated as the forty-fifth
and best president ever that day so screw you.
It’s because of people like you that…

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Recording of Self-Portrait with Knife

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Self-Portrait with Knife

Lacking benefit of prayer or belief,
it slips through flesh,

praising its temerity. Or,
parting the onion’s core, reclaims
the right to weep.

How many nights have we shared
these pleasures? I smooth the blade

with steel, listening to the fine hum.

“Self-Portrait with Knife” is included in my just released micro-chapbook Only This, available for free download from Origami Poems Project.

Recording of “Mother’s Day”

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 subsequently appeared here in May 2017.