My poem “Dictionary of Dreams” is up at Kingdoms in the Wild. Many thanks to the editors for accepting this piece.
Ghost, with a Line from Porchia
In my dreams you manifest in a younger form.
If I were to give you life, what could I give you?
Your hands never touched these walls, yet you inhabit them.
As my language inters you, I am absorbed in yours.
Some gifts are simply not proffered, others are released.
My fingers retrace your name in both sun and shade.
The rain taps out regrets, regretson the metal roof.
Dim spirit, faint soul. Root-land. Shoal. Mother.
Each visit signals the darkness waiting.
Your battle with language, with silence, invoked.
I stretch the word and weave this dirge for you.
* * *
Note: “If I were to give you life, what could I give you?” is from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin.
As Blue Fades
Which defines you best, a creaking lid or the light-turned flower?
The coffee’s steam or smoke wafting from your hand.
Your bowls color my shelves; I touch them daily.
Sound fills their bodies with memory.
The lighter’s click invokes your name.
And the stepping stones to nowhere, your current address.
If the moon could breathe would its breath flavor our nights?
I picture a separate one above your clouded island.
The dissipating blue in filtered light.
Above the coral. Above the waves and ocean floor far below.
Above the space your ashes should share.
Where the boats rise and fall, like chests, like the waning years.
Like a tide carrying me towards yesterday’s reef.
Or the black-tailed gull spinning in the updraft.
Nocturne (Fall 1983)
Tall weeds block
the view. Remove
sound from sight,
the guitar becomes
kindling. I stretch
my hands toward
the burning wood,
hearing the echo
and the woman.
This first appeared here in November 2015.
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
its withering armor.
How is too much
Targets based on
three men and a camel,
When morning comes,
they’re still awake,
collating damage, counting
sums, ignoring cost,
harvesting their dead fruit.
This first appeared here in September 2016.
To sweeten the dish, add salt. To bear the pain,
render the insoluble. She envied
the past its incursions, yet the past yields to all,
avoidance to acceptance, trees to smoke.
My mother brought to this country a token of her death to come.
Now it sits on my shelf bearing implements of music.
In her last days I played Sakura on the mandolin,
trusting that she might find comfort
in the blossoms fluttering through the failing notes,
a return to mornings
of tea and rice, of
warmth and paper walls and deep laughter.
Today the rain spells forgive
and every idea becomes form, every shadow a symptom,
each gesture a word, a naming in silence.
Scatter me in air I’ve never breathed.
* * *
“Ashes,” first appeared in Extract(s) in 2013, was reprinted on The Reverie Poetry Journal, and is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.
Earth’s Damp Mound
I. February 1998.
That week it rained white petals
and loss completed its
turn, the words finding themselves
alone, without measure,
without force, and no body to compare.
Though strangers spoke I could not.
Is this destiny, an unopened
mouth filled with
pebbles, a pear tree
deflowered by the wind? The earth’s
damp mound settles among your bones.
II. Count the Almonds
preserves your sleep,
reflects the eye’s
task along the inward thread?
Not the unspoken, but the unsayable.
Curious path, curious seed.
A shadow separates
to join another, and in the darker
frame carries the uncertain
further, past silence, past touch,
leaving its hunger alert and unfed,
allowing us our own protections.
III. The Bowl of Flowering Shadows
Reconciled, and of particular
grace, they lean, placing emphasis on balance,
on layer and focus, on depth of angle
absorbing the elegant darkness,
a lip, an upturned glance, the mirror.
What light caresses, it may destroy.
Even the frailest may alter intent.
So which, of all those you might recall,
if your matter could reform
and place you back into yourself,
would you choose? Forgive me
my selfishness, but I must know.
Then, you said, the art of nothingness
requires nothing more
than your greatest effort.
And how, seeing yours, could we,
the remaining, reclaim our
space without encroaching on what
you’ve left? One eye closes, then
the other. One mouth moves and another
speaks. One hears, one listens, the eternal
continuation. Rest, my friend. After.
Prentiss Moore influenced my reading and writing more than he ever realized. We spent many hours talking, eating, arguing, drinking, laughing. Always laughing – he had one of those all-encompassing laughs that invited the world to join in. And it frequently did. Through Prentiss I met in person one of my literary heroes, Gustaf Sobin, whose work Prentiss had of course introduced me to. Those few hours spent with the two of them driving around in my pickup truck, discussing poetry, the Texas landscape, horticulture and the vagaries of the publishing world, are hours I’ll always hold close.
Earth’s Damp Mound last appeared here in February 2016. It was first published in the anthology Terra Firma, and is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.