Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie

Too often you see yourself and wonder
which bodies ancestors navigated

to gather such glorious scars and wrinkles
in one place, both noticeable and unseen,

little waves in a great lake of flesh.
The mirror is not unkind, you think,

with proper lighting — in candlelight
or late evening’s peppery glow,

after a few drinks. Then you recall
crossing the equator three decades

past, how the deck’s non-skid surface
scratched your knees as you scrubbed

the twists and currents that’d buffeted
you to that imagined line on the globe,

and later, the following points and clock
faces withering down the long queue

of jobs, the spilled beer and incomplete life
sentences. Even now, Superior washes

through its locks, filling, denying, allowing
one’s depths into another’s space with equal

regard, promoting passage, flooding past with
future, present with then, balancing tomorrow, now.

“Sault Ste. Marie” won LCk Publishing’s Spring Poetry Contest in April 2017.

Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine

 

Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine

Things expand. Plans change. Clouds disperse,
people move. I remember swimming

through a dream’s warm water, and rising
for air only to find that I no longer lived

within that need, in that space demanding
the physiological transport of oxygen,

where the laws of physics reigned supreme,
and geometry, with a little luck, posited

all the right questions. And then the clock
blared and morning slammed me back.

Trees grow, as do needs and lives and even
cottages. We took down the dead Jack pine

that year, and drank skip-and-go-nakeds
by the pitcherful, while mosquitoes swarmed

me and ignored everyone else. It’s important,
but I still can’t recall the white pine, nor

where you planted it forty-three years ago.
Symbol or not, its treeness intrudes.

So we suffer these things with age, and if
what we cut down carries meaning beyond

cellulose and shade, bark and pine scent,
we’ll bear that mourning, too. So fuel your

saw, brother, and sharpen the chain. Today
becomes yesterday. Tomorrow never waits.

 

* * *

“Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine” was drafted during the Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge in August 2015, and was published by Quiet Letter in April 2017.

 

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.

 

Spring Dawn (after Meng Haoran)

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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

 

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This adaptation first appeared on the blog in November 2014.

Scarecrow Sees

Scarecrow Sees

Da Vinci maintained that sight relies on the eye’s
central line, yet the threads holding my
ocular buttons in place weave through four
holes and terminate in a knot. My flying friends
perceive light in a combination of four colors,
unlike the farmer, who blends only three. The
octopus knows black and white but blushes
to escape predators, while I remain fixed,
evading no one. Certainly my sense is more
vision than sight, and not the result of nerve
fibers routing light. Crows choose colors
when asked, but a certain shade of yellow
eludes them. And who would hear, above
the flock’s clamor, my claim to see this world
as it is? Grayscale, monochrome, visual
processing and perceptual lightness measures
mean little to one whose space accumulates
in uncertain increments – what is a foot to an
empty shoe? If I painted, which hues would
prefer my attempts, which would distract or
invade my cellulosic cortex, resulting in
fragmentation or blindness? Fear is not
limited to the sighted alone. I look out over
the field and perceive the harmonious
interaction of soil and root, leaf and sun,
the beauty of atmospheric refraction and
the wonder sprouting daily around me. Then
as one entity the crows explode into the blue,
leaving me alone with the shivering stalks,
questioning my place and purpose, awaiting
the next stray thought, a spark, a lonely
word creeping through this day’s demise.

This was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge, and was published by The High Window in December 2016.

Robert Okaji: (A Slight Return)

Daniel Schnee considers my poem “The Resonance of No.”

Dr. Daniel Schnee

Okaji Image

Having reviewed poet Robert Okaji’s latest chapbook From Every Moment A Second a couple of months ago, I have had time to sit with it and reread various poems that either made immediate impact or have grown on me, The Resonance of No being a strange combination of both. I say “strange”, as one does not expect a thing that resonates with them to not continue to do so. But I did not anticipate the depth at which The Resonance of No would reach or continue to reach within. I have wondered why this is. Then I realized that Okaji creates something I have missed all this time… the sound of Okaji.

“That quality we call beauty . . . must always grow from the realities of life.” This statement by Japanese novelist Jun’ichirou Tanizaki in his essay In Praise of Shadows evokes a sense of the aesthetic being…

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