Theology of Carrots
We hide our best
plumed by ornamental
allowing the wisdom
“Theology of Carrots” first appeared here in September 2017.
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.
No One Knows
There, the dream of flying
cars, and the next,
tumbling through soft
glass, inconsiderate and
hopeful as a child
on his birthday,
hands outstretched, waiting.
Unsmiling. You might ask
where this story turns,
whether the glass reconstitutes
or the car crashes,
reminders of a childhood
reconsidered and the simplest
truth, which is no one knows.
“No One Knows” was first published in The Pangolin Review in March 2018.
Riddle, Dollar, String
Living between, she pretends the comfort of walls
within walls, the unseen’s dispensation.
A slow dragging. The raked leaves.
And all the naked oaks bowing to the wind,
feeling the scratch of impending growth,
the twig’s pearl poised to push through
this mask, stolen sounds dotting the morning.
Later, watching lizards on the wall
or the haze of bees surrounding the agave.
No one pays. Limestone. Mulch. Light.
Unformed thoughts snaking through.
Like that line wrapped around her waist,
another purpose only she could explain.
“Riddle, Dollar, String” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.
The Neurotic Dreams September in April
Already I have become the beginning of a partial ghost, sleeping the summer
sleep in winter, choosing night over breakfast and the ritual of dousing lights.
This much I know: the moon returns each month, and tonight you lie awake
in a bed across the river, in a house with sixteen windows and a cold oven,
where your true name hides under the floorboard behind the pantry door.
Differences season our days — from flowers to snow, root to nectar — take
one and the other lessens in its own sight. One day I’ll overcome this longing
for things and will be complete in what I own, living my life beyond the page,
past the white space and dead letters. When I mention hearts, I mean that
muscle lodged in my chest. Genetics, not romance. Tissue. Arteries, veins.
Dark cars on the street. Cattle grazing in the damp pasture. The liquor store
sign glaring “CLOSED.” Separate yet included, we observed these scenes but
assigned them to the periphery, grounded in our own closed frames. In a
different time I would transcend my nature and strive to withstand yours.
Look. That star, the fog silhouetting the tombstones. A bobbing light.
Love is a gray morning, a steel-toed shoe or coating of black ice; nothing you
do will repeal its treachery. There, on my stone porch, I will inhale the smoke
of a thousand burned photographs. The sun will descend but you won’t share
it, and I’ll no longer hum your tune. When I rise no one sees. Or everyone
stares. Imagine that great cow of a moon lowing through the night.
“The Neurotic Dreams September in April” was published in deLuge in December 2016, and was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge. Many thanks to artist extraordinaire Ron Throop for sponsoring and providing the title.
The Body Gives
Sometimes the body gives too much.
A tendon frays, the heart mumbles
and no one sees the damaged parts.
Ignoring pain, we continue climbing ladders,
sandpaper breath rasping the morning light.
Little bits of us crumble all the time,
yet we stumble on, pretending.
Then the body kills us with its enthusiasm.
Cells duplicate wildly, plaque explodes.
This enmity within? Defensive maneuvers.
Working alone, I wonder where I might end.
On the floor. In a field. Atop the bed.
Under the surface of a rippling pond
or drifting with smoke
through a snow-clad afternoon
at eight thousand feet. Among
the grocery’s tomatoes and squash
approaching the end of a long list.
At the bar, glass in hand, or in a truck
at a four-way stop, the radio blaring.
Time enough for speculation, they say.
But I wonder: when I jump,
does the earth always rise to greet me?
“The Body Gives” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.
Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”
Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold
Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.
But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:
”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:
After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.
This is the nature of religion.
Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:
In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.
Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.
“Which Poets, Which Beer (2)” last appeared here in July 2017. You will be relieved to hear that I am still conducting research in these matters.