Self-Portrait as Question

 

Self-Portrait as Question 

Walking hand-in-hand with what,
who presupposes why, and when
huddles with where before skittering
off to its murky corner. Sometimes
I present myself as a shy minute
or a cloud’s effigy streaming across
a scruffy field. Few suspect the truth.
Answers ricochet from the limestone
wall, but no one nabs them. I react
quickly and offer the unknown, the
life I claim, my name, in return.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Question” was first published in Rue Scribe in September 2018. Many thanks to Eric Luthi and the editors at Rue Scribe for accepting this piece and several others.

Countdown #5: I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs

 

My last five posts of 2020 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

 

I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs

I got drunk once and woke in Korea
with you watching over me.

Odd, how you spend seasons looking
down, and I, up. If I lived in a cloud,

could you discern me from the other
particles? Perhaps your down is

peripheral, or left, or non-directional. I can
fathom this without measuring scope,

yet I feel queasy about the possibility
of being merely one vaporous drop

coalescing among others, unnamed
and forgettable, awaiting the particular

atmospheric conditions to plummet to my
fate. As if we control our own gravities!

One winter I grilled pork tenderloin under
your gaze, unaware that the grass

around me had caught fire, and when I
unwound the hose and turned on the

faucet you laughed, as the hose wasn’t
connected and only my feet were

extinguished. Dinner was delayed
that evening, but I praised you just the same.

I look up, heedless in the stars’ grip, unable
to retrace all those steps taken to this here,

now, but still you sway above the branches,
sighing, lighting my path, returned once

again, even if not apparent at all times. Every
star signals a departure. Each is an arrival.

 

*  * *

 

“I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs” was published in Sourland Mountain Review in January 2017.

 

Scarecrow Dances

Scarecrow Dances

A case of the almost
tapping into the deed:

I dance in daylight,
but never on stairs

nor in countable
patterns, the wind

and birds my only
partners. When the

left arm twitches
counter to the right

hand’s frisk, my
head swivels with

the breeze, catching
my feet in pointe,

a moment endured
in humor. Luther

Robinson switched names
with his brother Bill

and became Bojangles,
but my brothers remain

nameless and silent,
flapping without desire

or intent. Why am I
as I am, born of no

mother, stitched and
stuffed, never nurtured

but left to become this
fluttering entity, thinking,

always thinking, whirling,
flowing rhythmically

in sequence, in time
to unheard music?

No one answers me.
But for now, I dance.

“Scarecrow Dances” first appeared in The Blue Nib in September 2016.

Looking Ahead He Looks Back

 

Looking Ahead He Looks Back

Those things we leave behind.
The rooster’s full moon crow
or the blue enameled cast iron pot
bearing the scars of a thousand
meals. Hair on a brush. Harsh
night words and the photos of
a wooden lighthouse from a
discarded life. We choose some,
misplace others. How does a home
curdle within one night’s orbit?
The answer is not your truth. Or mine.
I measure my life in hours lost.

 

* * *

 

“Looking Ahead He Looks Back” was first published in Juke Joint, in March 2020.

Spring Dawn (after Meng Haoran)

file4731293467677

 

 

This morning I slept through dawn
and the screeching birds, long
after last night’s wild wind and rain.
But who can count the fallen flowers?
 

 

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

 

Spring sleep not wake dawn
Everywhere hear cry bird
Night come wind rain sound
Flower fall know how many

 

file7101237575173

 

 
 
This adaptation first appeared on the blog in November 2014.
 
 
 
 
 

Letter from Austin

perfection

 

Letter from Austin

Michael, when you say moons do you see
cold stone floating in the firmament
or phrases frayed in the mouth and spat on paper?
And does the Spanish moon simmer at a similar
pace to mine or yours? Which embers blush brighter?
But let’s turn to estuaries, to salt and clamor and gun-
running poets and interrupted words sold in stalls
between parenthetical gates, to incomparable cavas
and the deterioration of envy and intervening years.
Or perhaps mislaid passion – a friend claims love
is merely a bad rash, that we scratch and scratch
and inflame but never truly cure what ails us. Sounds like
politics to me. Or sports. And business. Or neighborhoods.
On my street people should cook and play music together,
laugh, raise chickens and read good books. They should
brew beer, swap tomatoes, recite each other’s poetry and sing
in tune. But we’re different here, preferring instead electronics
glowing in dimly lighted rooms. I reject this failure, as I also
reject the theory of centrifugal force spinning off the moon’s
body from the earth’s crust, preferring to imagine a giant
impact blasting matter into orbit around what morphed into the
earth, and somehow accreting the stuff into this orb we
sometimes worship. This, to me, is how good relationships
form: explosions of thought and emotion followed by periods
of accretion. But what I mean is I hope this finds you well
by the river of holy sacrament. Remember: brackish water
bisects our worlds. Turn. Filter. Embrace. Gotta run. Bob.

 

Originally published in Heron Clan 3, this first appeared on the blog in July 2015.

My friend Michael occasionally sends hand-written notes or letters to me, and I respond with poems. This is one. You might read some of his writing at Underfoot Poetry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Four Poems Up at As Above So Below

I’m delighted that four of my shakuhachi poems are up at As Above So Below, which also includes two poems by Stephanie L. Harper (one of which was written while under COVID-19’s breath-crushing grip) and pieces by Kate Garret, Sarah Law, Mark Tulin and others you might recognize. Many thanks to editor Bethany Rivers for taking these pieces.

I Live in My Winter


I Live in My Winter

Removed from the junipers’
fragrance, separated from
prickly pears gracing
the hill, limestone slabs
jutting from thin soil,
and smoke drifting from
a well laid fire on a cold
night. Old, today, I
call the clouds my
birthright, want only
to merge with them
and rain through
another black coffee
in this unfamiliar place,
this new home,
this welcome peace.