Between

between

 

Between

1

Living between, we watch what flows below us shed itself.

And what remains after the drought subsides?

I don’t recall the instance of assignation, of color-imprinted
awareness and stones erupting from the earth,

nor the paper’s texture and the faint odor of chemicals reacting,
but in this moment I embrace bitter coffee, the wrecked-nerve

hammer-strikes pulsing from hip to ankle, squealing brakes
and the rain shallowing morning’s ridge as if to say

enjoy me now
for I may never return
.

2

Faith flickers in the wind, darting among the weeds.

Risen from payment, penalty, punishment, revenge, the word pain
establishes justification where none need exist.

Interpreting light and sound, scent and heat, we converse.

The dog shivers in bed and I lay a towel over her,
affixing content to involuntary movement.

Stepping through space, crossing the stream.

Those things we don’t know.

Three feet below me the snake’s head ripples towards the far side,
a V of turbulence dissecting the calm.

Everything that can be contained contains us as we in turn
envelop one another. I take your hand and press forward.

3

Connected, we part, only to return and part again.

My hand stopped inches away and the diamondback slithered off
under the workbench, seeking peace.

Abandoned skin, abandoned words. Even the cactus grows thirsty.

The paradox of becoming what you are not. Today, sitting hurts
and standing provides little relief.

In one of two halves I find myself. In the other, your laughter rings.

Like rumblings of earthen discontent or the hiss of air
exiting waterless pipes, we emerge, aimless, exhausted.

Inhabiting one world, we seek others.

 

* * *

“Between” appeared in Clade Song, one of my favorite poetry journals, in August 2016. 

 

 

Scarecrow Ascends

 

Scarecrow Ascends

Fixed yet not immobile, I watch bits of me drift
over the wavering grain, a diaspora of disparate
selves once gathered. Some openings are blessings.
Others encourage dispersion. Yesterday’s coat-breech
is now a hole from which I trickle. Think of politics,
and how the tiniest crack may expand and engulf
its body, how one lie gains heft through repetition
at the expense of truth, driving fear. And to what
end? More wealth by exclusion? Power? Everything
dissipates. Even those mountains looming over
state houses, even the sun and its gravity, even your
idols and their power over reason. Had I no purpose
I would gladly rip open these rags and beg the wind
to carry me high, piece by fragment, to mingle with
the clouds and the rains to come and the refracted
light from afar, perhaps to glimpse something greater
ahead. Perhaps merely to dispel, to become undone.

 

* * *

“Scarecrow Ascends” first appeared in Sleet in August 2018.

 

Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

eyes3


Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

Or well-placed mirror in a sunburnt room, shivering through shifted
images: that hand, blackened and stout, opened like a dark peony;
the tattooed chin; shovel and torch; hook and owl. You say no one
chooses one fist over another, that bread’s rise completes its cycle
and begins anew, pressed flat and rounded. Take this heart and seal
its chambers. Note the anterior descent. Compression, lesion. Plaque.
Consequence. And your friend, who slept, never to awaken. Lying
in that strange bed, you taste salt, acknowledge change, whisper
to no one: audible house…audible tree, knowing that time’s limit
remains unclear. The air swirls and you accept this new light.

 

Note: “Audible house…audible tree” is from Jane Hirshfield’s “Not Moving Even One Step,” from The Lives of the Heart.

bowlnhashi

That Number Upon Which the Demand Lieth

 

That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth

Overcoming duality, yet binding: the trinity.
Beyond the contrast of two, it initiates the concept of many.
Albertus Magnus claimed that three lives in all things.

Becoming; being;
disappearing.

In Old Saxon, the month of May is named trimilki, season of three milkings.
Number as quality depends upon the visual field.
The ancient Egyptian sign for the plural requires three strokes.

Points; lines;
angles.

Lao-tzu said the triad produces all.
Acronyms, sports, and traffic lights reflect our ternary culture.
The devil may appear in the form of a three-legged hare.

Witness; testament;
tribute.

Representing the unknowable: I, you, and the beyond.
The figure of completion, the number of the cube.
A Sumerian number sequence began “man, woman, many.”

Curse; liturgy;
blessing.

The scale as a succession of thirds.
Imperfection implies the concealment of perfection.
Shiva’s number, his eyes, his braids, his place.

Root; third;
fifth.

The triangle in Euclidean space.
I walk the three roads to the commonplace, preferring rhetoric.
Three to through, it penetrates the personal, unhinges that door.

The law; the land;
the world to come.

 

“That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth” was published in Posit: A Journal of Literature and Art in September 2017. I am grateful to editor Susan Lewis for taking this piece.

 

Flux

Flux

by Stephanie L. Harper and Robert Okaji

I remember what I cannot say
in the moment before
I somehow say something else,
instead,

but like a river reversing course
seeps its brackish warmth
into crisp mountain runoff channels,

my backdraft, too,
threatens
to stifle the resident cutthroats
along with their prey.

Nothing will remain safe for long
from the toxic sediments I bear
upstream, resisting

the current’s translucent
promise to rush me past the crest
of undulant reeds between
the salt marsh and open sea;

for no twist in the shoreline,
nor cloudburst’s surge could un-speak
the daylight

from its collapse
into the ocean’s black throat.

 

“Flux” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry, and is one of several pieces (with more to come) written during the past year in collaboration with Stephanie L. Harper, whose wisdom, patience and good humor enrich my life daily. Thank you, Daniel Paul Marshall and Tim Miller for taking this piece.