Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

 

Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

 

Dear Jeff: The glow here betrays our fantasies,

and between day and night and that uncertain

moment when neither holds sway, I have gained

a toehold on consequence. Who knew darkness

could shine so? Last November the surgeon

incised my belly six times but no light oozed

out and little crept in. I say little, but feel

a peculiar radiance emanating from my middle

which I can only attribute to the moon, although

the medical professionals would say it’s just

gas. But what do they know of Sheng-Yu or

Li Ho, of jade wheels and spilled cups? Last

night, to honor our marching sisters, I looked

to the cloud-filled sky and toasted them and

our ancestors, the poets and scapegoats, friends,

allies, compatriots, Five White and Jackboy,

shedding a solitary tear of joy in the process.

We won’t label the other tears, but I shudder

at our country’s current course and how the

bulging wallets of the rich continue swelling

at the expense of the poor and unhealthy,

the elderly, the unacknowledged, and those

living on the fringes, in colored shadows.

If we meet in person on some desolate, moon-

free road in a country that could never be,

how will I know you but from the ghosts and

smiles sparkling in the surrounding fog,

and the little voices singing their sad tune

of happiness into the night. This is where

we stand today, but tomorrow? Look for me

on that bench. I’ll be the full-bellied fellow,

the one with an eclipse leaking from his shirt

in a six-point pattern, two glasses in hand,

wine uncorked, ready for reptiles and politicians,

mirth and causation and good conversation

in brightness or tenebrous calm, whichever

needs replenishing more. But bring another

bottle. Or two. Talking makes me thirsty. Bob.

 

 

* * *

My poem “Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon” was first published at The Hamilton Stone Review in October 2017. Much gratitude to editor Roger Mitchell for taking this piece.

 

 

The Garden

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The Garden

But what of this notion
of the romantic?

It rained last night.
I could smell it

before it fell,
each drop a perfect

sphere until the final
moment. This

is fact, impractical but
lovely for its truth.

 

* * *

Initially posted here in January of 2014, the poem was published many years ago (30?) as a poetry postcard offered by the literary journal Amelia. I admit to being wrong about the shape of raindrops. But hey, they start out spherical…

Every Wind (with recording)


Every Wind

Every wind loses itself,
no matter where

it starts. I want
a little piece of you.

No.

I want your atmosphere
bundled in a small rice paper packet
and labeled with strings of new rain
and stepping stones.

I want
the grace of silence
blowing in through the cracked
window, disturbing only
the shadows.

Everywhere I go, bits of me linger,
searching for you.

Grief ages one thread at a time,

lurking like an odor
among the lost
things,

or your breath,
still out there,

drifting.

 

* * *

Music: “Gymnopedie No. 1” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

“Every Wind” first appeared in The Lake in July 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available for order via Amazon.com and Finishing Line Press.

 

 

 

If You Drop Leaves

 

If You Drop Leaves

If you drop leaves when she walks by,
does that signify grief for those
cut down early,

or merely drought?
How easily we abandon and forget.

Yet a whiff of lemon verbena or the light
bouncing from a passing Ford
can call them back,

tiny sorrows ratcheted in sequence
above the cracked well casing

but below the shingles
and near the dwindling shade
tracing its outline on the lawn.

And what do you whisper
alone at night within sight
of sawn and stacked siblings?

Do you suffer anger by way
of deadfall or absorption,

bark grown around and concealing
a penetrating nail, never shedding
tears, never sharing one moment

with another. Offered condolences,
what might you say? Pain earns no
entrance. Remit yourselves.

 

* * *

“If You Drop Leaves” was published at Bad Pony in November 2017. Many thanks to editor Emily Corwin for taking this piece.

Some Answers You Never Considered

 

Some Answers You Never Considered

At the cusp of night, before the sun steams out in the ocean,
and blues abandon the reds.

Nothing rests at the core of zero.

Cerulean blue was first marketed as coerulium.

What we consider sky includes only its lowest reaches.

Even considering a dense history with kites, I humbly concede,
and admit sacrifice as atonement, with grace.

No. I say it again. No.

Your visual system constructs the colors you see.

Only when the wind unbuttons its greatcoat, or at the tip
of an icicle, just before the drop catches itself.

Release the line and know the freedom of loss.

Transparent yet wide, unfolded like a fist freeing
a swarm of bees into honeyed air, it contains us.

Your inability to see it does not refute the horizon’s base.

If I knew I’d tell you.

 

* * *

“Some Answers You Never Considered” first appeared in Underfoot in October 2017.

 

Tell it Slant: How to Write a Wise Poem, essay by Camille Dungy

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Few essays on writing poetry grab me by the collar, slam me against the wall, and say “Listen, dammit!” But this one did.

Camille Dungy’s words sear through the fog. She tells it slant. She tells it true. She explains how some masters have done it. If you’ve not read her poetry, seek it out. You’re in for a treat. If you have the good fortune to attend a lecture or reading by her, do so. She’s energetic, wise and kind. She knows.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/247926

FIrst posted here in 2014..

 

 

Uccello

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Uccello

the wind is what
the stillness
desires to say
each instant
collapsing into itself
like a bud
returning
to the seed

listen
the birds in my tree
are silent
as echoes
before their brief
lives are
silent

something thrashes
in the leaves
the feather
spiraling
slowly
is not only what
it is

as the candle
is more
than flame
or a moment

curling
to darkness

the question
is of clarity

I built a frame
but placed
nothing in it

the wind
blows through
quietly as if
between silences
there exists
only silence or

light
the familiar embrace

unfolding

 

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Originally published in 1987 in a short-lived publication called The Balcones Review, this is the opening of a longer work. When I last looked out my window at that same tree, I heard the birds, no longer silent.

 

Down and Away

 

Down and Away

How soon we lose the scent
of our first love’s

body, that odor of perfume
over sweat and uncertainty

and the overwhelming surge
into what will never again

be new. You shake yourself
back, wondering

if falling stars could choose
to rise again, whether

they would rejoin the firmament
or simply retreat deeper into the

ocean’s black, cooling, sliding
down and away, slipping

free of regret, evading forever
the sun’s long fingers.

 

 

“Down and Away” was first published in August 2019 at Trestle Ties. Many thanks to Juleen Eun Sun Johnson and Aaron Schuman for taking this piece.

 

 

 

 

Recording of “Balance”

star lights


Balance

Navigating
by stars,

one ball
buried,

another
gathering,

the dung
beetle

straight-lines,
maintains

position,
forever

looking forward
and up.

 

image

 

“Balance” first appeared here in February 2016, and is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, available for free download from Origami Poems Project.

“Nightdreams” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/