Black Lilies

 

Black Lilies

Flensing words, slicing deeper: all, nothing,
red to redder. Their skin, paling to nothing.

I speak today but you hear yesterday.
Black lilies in the chill of nothing.

Drifted apart, the two halves reconcile.
Yellowed, whitened. Older. Both stitched in nothing.

How many words have we lost to morning? Shredded
syllables sparring for sound. The nothing of nothing.

A coated voice, turquoise and calm, spreading across the room.
Buttered light. Pleasantries, unfolding. You, being nothing.

The language of night sleeps unformed in my bed.
I remember your hand on my cheek; flesh forgets nothing.

 

* * *

A near-ghazal, “Black Lilies” first appeared in ISACOUSTIC* in January 2018.

The Color of Water

SONY DSC

The Color of Water

Eyes the color of water. The tree I cut down
returns: fallen leaves, smoke, the missing

shade, memory come to reflect
emotion. Once the blue grosbeak

hid in its branches, calling but refusing
to appear, the voice our only consolation.

Now rain streaks the empty space.
Those things we touch often bruise,

but to leave them untouched may harm us
even more. Two days ago the sky cleared.

Changes, how often we see them for what
they are not. An essential falsity. Those eyes.

Words, ever-changing. Shadows of lovers
whose bodies merge but never touch.

file731340645452

This first appeared on the blog in March 2015.

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Or its fruit, redolent of sun and rain, withdrawn and shriveled,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

 

Arthritis

photo(10)

 

Arthritis

If at night I stray in thought,
dreaming of nimble fingers

and my departed dog’s walk,
will you smile

when I scratch his absent ear
and apologize for the times

I failed him? Even combined,
all the words in these unread books

could never soothe the guilt
of leisure and complacency, nor

match the joy of jumping
for the kicked ball, no matter the

outcome, despite the consequences.

 

image

“Arthritis” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

 

Something Lost, Something Trivial

broom

 

Something Lost, Something Trivial

Another word, another bewildered
moment in transition: the phrase
barely emerges from your mouth
before crumbling back into a half-opened
drawer in the loneliest room of a house
that died seventeen years ago.

I nod as if in understanding, and stoop
to pick up a crushed drinking straw,
the kind with the accordion elbow
that facilitates adjustment.

From a rooftop across the street,
a mockingbird warbles his
early morning medley of unrelated
songs, and you say left oblique,
followed by matches, then
collapse on a bench,
winded. I sit next to you

and we both enjoy the warmth
and birdsong, though I know
this only through the uplifted
corner of your mouth, which
these days is how you indicate
either deep pleasure or

fear. I have to leave soon,
I say, and you grab my wrist
and stare into my eyes.
Broom, you reply. And more
emphatically, Broom!

Though I cannot follow you
directly, knowing both path
and destination, I pick my way
carefully through the years
stacked high like cardboard
banker’s boxes stuffed with
papers and receipts no one
will ever see. I know, I say.
I love you, too. Broom.

 

* * *

“Something Lost, Something Trivial” was published in January 2016 in the first issue of MockingHeart Review. Many thanks to founding editor Clare L. Martin, for her multiple kindnesses.

Dictionary of Dreams

 

Dictionary of Dreams

You do not know their secret names.
Mine is the music of metal and wood.

Human voices behind walls.
Trapped in reds, in chiseled words.

And silence. Always silence.
Or the filtered woodwinds at dawn.

How to describe her body?
The quickness of night. Year’s demise.

A family of ghosts hidden in these halls.

 

 

* * *

“Dictionary of Dreams” was published in Kingdoms in the Wild in April 2018.

 

Sunday, June

 

Sunday, June

Trying to give, I fail too often.
But this day we prepare for you
food that your beloved often cooked,
made with the ingredients of 19,000
nights and promises of more to come.
These potatoes. That beef, the fruit.
Simple, and yet so difficult to reproduce.
Even the recipe is incomplete. “Some
mayonnaise,” it says, then “mustard,”
but not whether dry or prepared, and
the amount is unclear. Yet the results
transport you to stronger days, to
the clear-eyed self and limitless
possibilities, meals on the table
at five o’clock, the satisfaction of work
well done, knowing that you have soared
above your father’s imprecations
but never beyond love’s touch, her
sleepy murmurs, morning coffee,
burnished histories and late cigarettes,
the tulips on the soil you’ll soon share.

 

“Sunday, June” first appeared in the print journal Nourish in March 2018.

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.

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.