I am grateful to editor Michael Simms for his support of my work.
I count more graves than people in my sleep,
but nothing turns more quickly
than an empty wind
in a place whose memory has died.
And all manner of departure: What you have left is you
without you. As if it could be different, as if decades
could withdraw and draft a blueprint of motive and action,
returning them, returning you, to that point
across the sea where the ship has not yet arrived.
If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.
To be within, yet without, as in the unuttered phrase.
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
to render the void clear and resolute, the diction of
separation divided by decades and your ocean.
The language of silence, drawn near.
3. From the Other Side
Sometime becomes never and steps around a desolate corner,
and all we have left is our field
awash in stone, remnants of the unspoken.
I have no memory of you. Nor you, of me,
but the strands do not lie, and unraveled,
expose the imperfect blends
that compose my love. A leaky roof. The last word.
A pity to put up at all
but there is rain.
4. Another Night
Of all the hours which were the longest?
The earth trembled around me
and I lay still, bearing witness to
the uncertain malice of its
shrug, shoulders brought to
fore, then returned,
and finally, released. If,
after this half-century, words
could reform in your mouth,
what denial would issue?
Ashes, washing ashore.
And seeing you only as the shadow of an
ending whose voice lies
in an uncommon past, how
may we recognize the very shape we share?
The bridge’s fate is loneliness,
knowing that one side
decries the other’s
call, that separation affords new light:
they are between
comfort and space, between words and a smile,
between nothingness and sorrow,
two points, beginning and end,
reaching, in opposition, towards each other.
“What you have left is you without you” is from Edmond Jabes’s “At the Threshold of the Book” in The Book of Questions: Volume I, translated by Rosemary Waldrop.
“It is time the stone made an effort to flower” is from Paul Celan’s poem “Corona,” included in Poems of Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger.
“A pity to put up at all but there is rain” is from Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns, translated by Cid Corman and Kamake Susumu.
Albert Huffstickler’s poem “Bridges” which appeared in The Balcones Review in 1987, begins “They are between…”
“Elegy” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry in October 2017.
rust. Being one phase of corruption, a matter of
resolve. When I surrender, the implication is of giving
over, moving above, allowance. Delivering despite
the steady flaking away at what colors me intact.
The quiet evening had lulled me to this inevitability:
when oxides subsume the original metal, the expansion
may result in catastrophe. Yesterday’s arc, tomorrow’s
trial. Failure’s bloom.
* * *
“Aftermath” first appeared in the print publication Sheepshead Review. Thank you to Audrey Schultz and staff for taking this poem.
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.
* * *
Another near-ghazal, “Black Lilies” first appeared in ISACOUSTIC* in January 2018.
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,
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.
Prentiss Moore, 1947-1998
I’d been so busy with the bookstore that we’d not been in touch. I always thought we’d have time for that breakfast, for those drinks, for that laughter. I heard about his death only minutes before the memorial gathering was to begin. Stunned, and dressed in my standard bookseller’s uniform of jeans and wrinkled shirt, unshaven, I felt inadequate to the occasion, betrayed, embarrassed. The clear sky pressed uncomfortably close. How dare he die! Why did I not know? The ground shifted underfoot and I walked like a man underwater. I swatted at a buzzing wasp, not caring if it retaliated. And for the first time I realized that I, too, was dying. We all were. We all are. The gathering was lovely, memorable. Friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers spoke. I could not.
I once said that I hoped to become half the poet that Prentiss was. I may finally be approaching that elusive mark, but I’m still angry. How dare he die!
To read one of his most memorable poems, please look here:
And my poem for Prentiss can be found on this blog:
This poem in The Ellis Review breaks my heart and lifts my day all at the same time.
“There are many reasons, known and unknown, as to why I write; I don’t like to think these reasons change necessarily, but rather, amass over time—no, maybe, these reasons refine over time. These days, I am writing a lot of elegies, so if I had to answer in the present, I write because it brings me closer to the dead, and being close to what is no longer animate, in whatever state or form, makes the pain that comes with loss just a little more bearable. Even death welcomes conversation.” — Khaty Xiong