The Military Industrial Complex’s CPAs Never Sleep

 avocado

The Military Industrial Complex’s CPAs Never Sleep

We so seldom bury people at sea
in weighted shrouds,
preferring instead sealed
containers or ashes
mixed with concrete.

Little girls skip
down the street,
giggling, unaware of their
value on the open
market. Dollars, oil.
Weapons. All fungible.

On the forgotten shelf,
the avocado’s flesh
blackens inside
its withering armor.
How is too much
never enough?

Targets based on
possibilities, innuendo,
cost-benefit analysis:
three men and a camel,
wedding parties,
hospitals, homes.
Schools.

When morning comes,
they’re still awake,
collating damage, counting
opportunities, massaging
sums, ignoring cost,
harvesting their rotted fruit.

military

This first appeared here in September 2016.

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Or its fruit, redolent of sun and rain, withdrawn and shriveled,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At times I have withdrawn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.

 

Forgotten

 

Forgotten

Is it simply forgotten
or not remembered?

My father coughs
through his days,

asking for answers
only his brother knows.

Some books are better
read from the end,

he says. I don’t know
what to do.

He tries to spell his name
but the letters elude him,

teetering between symbol
and thought and choice.

The chair tips over
when I lean too far back,

replacing memories
with hardwood

and a new bruise
coloring my thoughts.

This word, that one.
A face, the date.

Last Tuesday’s crumb.
The floor accepts us all.

 

* * *

“Forgotten” first appeared in ISACOUSTIC* in January 2018.

Dead Rose at 5 Points Local

 

Dead Rose at 5 Points Local
(A collaborative poem written with Stephanie L. Harper)

Having plucked the disheveled
petals from the core,
she waits
for the dead to speak
of last week’s sweetness—

of damp upholstery
and worn-out shoes,
of locked chests
and the faint honey
of unrealized hope.

Magnetized,
I twist the stem;
I quarter the seeds and
blemish the plate.
Which north rings true?

Which faded-red
bridge reveals the lost
inner compass?
Our ice cubes clink
no answers, as the essences

of hibiscus, lavender,
and mint slip over my tongue,
concealing the cool
tang of her demurring
ghosts…

But when she says whisper,
touching her lips
with an index finger,
I hear distant trains
baying like wolves,

and smell the char of nights
trailing the undiminished
river, its waters flowing
in every possible
direction, away.

 

* * *

“Dead Rose at 5 Points Local” first appeared in Formidable Woman Sanctuary in November 2018. For the story behind the poem, click on the link.

Well Pump

 

Well Pump

To be within, yet without: the rootless seed.
Staring through glass, we see only the surface
sliced thin like cell-thick specimen slides.
I dream of knowing, of inclusion.
The well pump is fried, but only thieves
return our calls. How to deflect the lure
of complicity? Stack stone, observe clouds.
Tap the cistern. Absorb its hollow tune.

 

* * *

“Well Pump” first appeared in January 2018 in Amethyst Review.

Many thanks to editor Sarah Law for accepting it.

 

Self-Portrait as Border

 

Self-Portrait as Border

Some rivers shift course, but
I stand firm, a nexus of rejection,
that line denoting separation of north
and good, evil and south, dark and
white. Welcoming no one, I stand
guard, opposing all with my flag
of diminishment. Squint, and you
still can’t see me. Your bare feet
won’t stir my dust. I am nowhere,
but remain here — that feeling of
prideful despair, strong, resolute,
inflexible foe to all who dare cross.

 

“Self-Portrait as Border” first appeared in October 2018 in Minute Magazine. Many thanks to the editors for taking my poem.

 

 

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. 

 

 

I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs

moon-through-trees

 

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.

 

Return (El Salvador, 1983)

image

Return (El Salvador, 1983)

Two years with no word.
The stick you planted
sprouted leaves last spring,

restoring hope. We had long
thought it dead. Two leaves
and a bud. A note

scrawled on a dollar bill,
unsigned and smuggled out
by some kindly stranger.

This is not much.
We can do little
but watch the tree grow

while you count steps
and deny the walls of a room
that light never touches.

image

“Return (El Salvador, 1983)” first appeared here in June 2015.

You Are the Wind That Trusted

cave painting

You Are the Wind That Trusted

The barriers I could not place, the incomplete lines and unmouthed
verbs registered in stone, saying I am here,

as if taw were born in evil, and not the fruit of the need to mark.

At what velocity must sand scour these walls to obliterate the hand’s
intent? How may we gauge design? Galileo’s thermoscope

crudely measured temperature variation, but in 1612 Santorio added a numerical scale.

For centuries, T did not produce a miniscule and stood tall in its singular representation.

Hydrated iron oxide, mixed with bone marrow and charcoal, yields
ochre, a formula that predates writing.

Development, not invention.

T’s varying structure may be one of sequence and slippage.

Thermoscopes were open ended tubes dependent upon air pressure.
Celsius originally proposed a scale with 0 at the boiling point.

A cruciform. The capped spike. Blended tongues.

Complexity intrudes with every step: smoke-darkened ceiling.

***

This appeared on the blog in February 2016. A slightly different version appeared in Otolith in fall 2013.

thermo