Variations on a Theme

darkedinburgh_shadow

Variations on a Theme

1. The Long Night

We envy the shadow its attributes, its willingness to subside,
but what of its flesh?

I lay in the field and wept.

Think of the fragrance, the moist leaves
enveloping the still

warm body. In retrospect, I realize that I should never have left, that air
returns to voided space despite all attempts to disavow

light, that wind and rain and soil alike filter through the chest’s
cavity, that stones may bear one’s touch in perpetuity.

At nineteen, death had gifted nothing to my world.
At twenty, little else remained.

So close, so lovely.

 

2. The Loneliness of Shadows

Light collapsing around a point. The two-headed flower.

In my dreams, no one speaks.

Not the thing itself, the bud bursting forth, petals ablaze with color,
but rather change: the process reinforced.

Sleep seldom shows such kindness.

Or its fruit, redolent of sun and rain, withdrawn and shriveled,
and finally, ingested.

Yesterday I woke damp but unafraid.

 

3. Alchemy

Stones never talk, but they rise from the earth, appearing as if by invitation.

The way silence lines an unfilled
grave, which is to say as below

so above, an infinite murmur open to the night.
And other notions: transpiration.

Waste.
Sublimation. Calcination and burning.

At times I have withdrawn
like water from the air’s

body, fearful yet reckless in the act.
That evening the moon flickered and the shadows lay at our feet,

and all the words we never framed,
the bitters our tongues could not know, the wasted

music and abandoned caresses, those words,
sighed into the ground, leaving you adrift, alone.

But how else might one transform darkness to light?
Or the reverse.

huey_ef

 

This originally appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine in April, 2014, and was first posted here in July of 2015.

 

Morning Covers You

eye camera

 

Morning Covers You

1

We extract
light, bleeding
it out one

diamond-shaped
hole after
another.

Finger the results.
Remediation
in form

or placement
to best
advantage?

At night
loneliness cradles
our bones.

2

You arrange our bodies to greater effect,
presuming lesser horrors
to be less.

A list emerges.
Refuting one,
accepting another.

Choices fixed.
Ecstasies of failure
purged.

Morning covers you
like a blue
shroud, so pale.

So cold
and bitter.

 

 

This originally appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine in April, 2014, and on this blog in October 2015.

diamond fence

 

Memorial Day, 2015

 

 

Memorial Day, 2015

I turn away from the sun, and drink.
Every window is dark.
No one hears my song, not even the guitar.
When the rain pauses the grackle rests on the cedar picket.
Etymology: from Latin memorialis, of or belonging to memory,
leading to home and family, their connotations.
Remembering is simple, she says. But forgetting…
The coral snake slips by, unseen.
Nothing lives in my shadow.

 

* * *

“Memorial Day, 2015” first appeared at Picaroon Poetry  in July 2017. Many thanks to editor Kate Garrett, for taking this piece.

 

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.

Who Will Know

 

Who Will Know

If I drip like snow from the roof who will know?
When I throw stones at dead men who will know?

The mother’s ghost rests in a razor-filled moat.
He purses his lips, laughs, says who will know?

You are the night sky above the red-cloud horizon.
When I fade like twilight, tell me who will know.

Which vein traces love, which proffers denial
as our blood starts flowing, and who will know?

Unanswered prayers line his frozen pockets.
When he unclenches his tiny hands, who will know?

This man’s tongue repels truth no matter the hour.
If we hear only what he allows, then who will know?

 

* * *

“Who Will Know” made its first appearance in May 2019 at The Local Train Magazine, a publication out of Bangladesh.

 

Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something
, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.

Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bread

That year we learned the true language of fear.
I baked boule and you haunted medical sites.

You said to arrive I must first depart
or be willing to suffer self-awareness. Let’s not

mention our pact just yet. My basic boule requires a
Dutch oven, 20 ounces of flour, water, yeast and salt.

At twenty I learned the finer points
of sausage-making, how to butcher chicken, and

that your hair smelled like dawn’s last flower.
Back then we owned the night. Now I harvest

wild yeast and sharpen pencils, make to-do lists,
pour Chianti, run numbers. I agreed

to your proposal. It would be a kindness, you said.
The pancreas produces hormones

and aids digestion. I chopped off my left thumbtip
and a year later the abscission point

still felt numb. After rolling the dough
into a ball, let it proof for an hour in an oiled bowl.

We shared a taste for sharp cheese
but never agreed on pillows. You loved

down comforters and found vultures fascinating.
Years together honed our lives

but we never considered what that meant. Score
the dough, bake it for 30 minutes with the lid on,

remove the lid and bake for another 15.
Kneading resembles breathing: in,

out. Rise, fall. Bright lights made your eyes water,
so I kept them dimmed. You swallowed

and said “Tell me how to knead bread.”
With the heel of your right hand, push down

and forward, applying steady pressure.
The dough should move under your hand.

Within minutes it will transform.

 

* * *

“Bread” was first published in Extract(s) in April 2015.

pillows

In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For


tulip

 

In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For

Balance. The ability to stand on one foot, on a tightrope, and juggle AR-15s,
ethics and dollar bills, while chanting the U.S. Constitution, in tongues.

Or good health.

Unweighted dreams.

A mechanism for disagreeing without needing to annihilate the opposition.

Doorways without doors, truth without fear.

A simple tulip.

One word to describe that instant between thought and pulled trigger,
intent and wish, the elevated pulse and sense of diminished space and time.

Sanctuary. Regret. Apology. Respect.

A tonic to the bitterness, a foil to the sweet.

Fitted sheets that fold. Uncommon sense.

Love in the abstract. More bacon. Smiles.

A closet that embraces everything you place in it. Everything.

The means of unfiring guns, of reversing wounds to undamaged flesh,
and rounds to their magazines, full and never used.

Self-organizing drawers. Due process.

Mothers who know only tears of joy.

One peaceful day.

Just one.

 

lights n sirens

 

This first appeared on the blog in July 2016. The poem was a response to an email asking a question intended for someone else: “What exactly are you looking for?”

 

Chilled Soba

Chilled Soba

I am not
philosophical
today,

but hunger
concerns me.
Oh, not

real hunger
but a desire
to consume.

Afternoon
chews morning.
Evening

swallows afternoon.
Morning digests
night. And I,

slurping chilled
soba with
pickled ginger

and scallion,
wonder which verb
my days will choose.

 

 

“Chilled Soba,” first appeared in Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature in November 2018. I am grateful to the editors for accepting my poem.