My poem, “Chilled Soba,” has been published by Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature. I am grateful to the editors for accepting my poem.
My poem “Self-Portrait as Border” is live at Minute Magazine. Many thanks to the editors for taking my poem.
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.
Yesterday’s rain informs me I’m born of luck and blended
strands, of hope and words forged before a common tongue emerged.
Of my first two languages only one still breathes.
The other manifests in exile, in blurred images and hummed tunes.
Rice is my staple. I eat it without regarding its English etymology,
its transition from Sanskrit to Persian and Greek, to Latin, to French.
Flooding is not mandatory in cultivation, but requires less effort.
Rice contains arsenic, yet I crave its polished grains.
In my monolingual home we still call it gohan, literally cooked rice, or meal.
The kanji character, bei, also means America.
Representing a field, it symbolizes abundance, security, and fertility.
Three rice plants tied with a rope. Many. Life’s foundation.
To understand Japan, look to rice. To appreciate breadth, think gohan.
Humility exemplified: sake consists of rice, water and mold.
The words we shape predicate a communion of aesthetics.
Miscomprehension inhabits consequence.
* * *
“Rice” has appeared here twice before, and is included in my chapbook-length work, The Circumference of Other, published in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”