Clandestine

 

Clandestine

How did you slip so deftly past those bottled
years, through my ribcage and into the safe
room never before broached? I am the little
stones you gather, the morning’s obsidian eye.
Though the wind’s unseen fingers caress you,
coveting in a way I cannot, my hand, warm
against your pale belly, knows the truth of
contrast and heat, of flesh and gnarled bark.
Unveiling these furtive moves, our love smelts
tears into nuggets, transforms nights into
blue sky, sultry chatter into celestial song.
Our secrets kiss the dark quiet.

 

“Clandestine” first appeared in Issue 6 of Kissing Dynamite. I am grateful to the KD team for taking this piece.

 

 

Bread

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Bread

That year we learned the true language of fear.
I baked boule and you haunted medical sites.

You said to arrive I must first depart
or be willing to suffer self-awareness. Let’s not

mention our pact just yet. My basic boule requires a
Dutch oven, 20 ounces of flour, water, yeast and salt.

At twenty I learned the finer points
of sausage-making, how to butcher chicken, and

that your hair smelled like dawn’s last flower.
Back then we owned the night. Now I harvest

wild yeast and sharpen pencils, make to-do lists,
pour Chianti, run numbers. I agreed

to your proposal. It would be a kindness, you said.
The pancreas produces hormones

and aids digestion. I chopped off my left thumbtip
and a year later the abscission point

still felt numb. After rolling the dough
into a ball, let it proof for an hour in an oiled bowl.

We shared a taste for sharp cheese
but never agreed on pillows. You loved

down comforters and found vultures fascinating.
Years together honed our lives

but we never considered what that meant. Score
the dough, bake it for 30 minutes with the lid on,

remove the lid and bake for another 15.
Kneading resembles breathing: in,

out. Rise, fall. Bright lights made your eyes water,
so I kept them dimmed. You swallowed

and said “Tell me how to knead bread.”
With the heel of your right hand, push down

and forward, applying steady pressure.
The dough should move under your hand.

Within minutes it will transform.

 

* * *

“Bread” was first published in Extract(s) in April 2015.

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Down and Away

 

Down and Away

How soon we lose the scent
of our first love’s

body, that odor of perfume
over sweat and uncertainty

and the overwhelming surge
into what will never again

be new. You shake yourself
back, wondering

if falling stars could choose
to rise again, whether

they would rejoin the firmament
or simply retreat deeper into the

ocean’s black, cooling, sliding
down and away, slipping

free of regret, evading forever
the sun’s long fingers.

 

 

“Down and Away” was first published in August 2019 at Trestle Ties. Many thanks to Juleen Eun Sun Johnson and Aaron Schuman for taking this piece.

 

 

 

 

Reticent as Ever, I Follow the Map (with recording)

 

Reticent as Ever, I Follow the Map

This old bed, knowing our secrets, our love
for the spiders of the world and their guilty

pleasures, wraps its history around us, says
“go easy, my friends,” and leaves us to our

research. I find the scar on your lower
back, that sacred heart of fusion,

trace the line on the map to the freckle
of grace and its inequities, then up to the left

ear, which requires attention. Speech
can only intrude upon my navigations,

yet I can’t refrain from murmuring the words
again, those never-tiring, never-depleting

syllables which always demand repetition,
wave after wave, an ocean of truth,

mingling and dispersing, accepting, giving,
swelling larger and more complex each day.

 

 

 

 

“Reticent as Ever I Follow the Map” was published in July 2019 at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Thank you, Jeff Streeby, for taking this piece.

 

Night Smoke

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Night Smoke

Incomplete, it rises
only to dissipate

like the griefs we shape,
somehow unnoticed,

beyond reach but felt.
Last night’s moon, the glance.

Forgotten stars, a withheld
kiss, words we never formed.

How difficult to be lost.
So easy to remain unseen.

 



* * *

“Night Smoke” last appeared here in February 2019.

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Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

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Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

 

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision writing a poem about armpits. But the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and Plain Jane, the title sponsor, provided that opportunity. This first appeared here in April 2016, and was subsequently published in Algebra of Owls. Many thanks to editor Paul Vaughan for taking it.

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With Guitar in Hand

 

With Guitar in Hand

for Stephanie

With guitar in hand I observe the green beetles bumbling about,
the way they careen and crash and flail aimlessly, but to a purpose.

Sometimes I attempt one note, only to strike another, or plucking
three strings simultaneously, focus on the discordant one,

which is, of course, me. How do we live the right song?
Which casual arrangement sends us plummeting to the grass,

hearts racing? I recall thinking “this cannot be,” yet could not,
would not, turn away. I bang out a minor seventh, sing a few

words, adjust my arthritic grip. Yesterday I couldn’t form
the chord shapes I desired. Today the hands float along the

fretboard, unimpeded. I wish you were here. I wish
I could shift time signatures with neurotransmissions,

that we were somewhere else, out of the way, alone
but for birds chirping in the branches by the window.

I wish my flawed tunes could merge with moonlight
and compose pearlescent pieces, and that you would

sing them to me from the threshold of our shared lives. I want
everything, but cherish what we can hold in these wondrous

times. I think of your hair and eyes, how my heart
flutters to the floor and refuses to rise until your smile

unwraps the day’s gift to me, defying Newton’s third law,
offering unheard chords. I listen to your silences, as I do

your words, knowing the value of each. Gazing at your
photo, I speak your name, set down the guitar. Make music.

 

 

“With Guitar in Hand” was originally published in the print anthology Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love in February 2019.

 

 

Lying in Bed I Think of Breakfast (with recording)

 

 

Lying in Bed, I Think of Breakfast

The moon smiles and I lie here thinking
of the simple breakfasts I would cook for
us: sticky rice with scrambled eggs and
sauteed peppers, or toasted boule with bacon
jam and a side of sliced peaches. And coffee.
Always coffee, black and bitter. But circumstance
dictates other courses, other time zones, and you
wake in your city as I walk in mine, an early
shopper plundering the store’s vegetable
bins, wandering the aisles in search of a
bargain and that special ingredient missing
from my tired, inconsolable days.

 

 

“Lying in Bed I Think of Breakfast” was published in December 2019 by The Big Windows Review. Thanks to editor Thomas Zimmerman for accepting this piece.

 

Shadow (with Recording)

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

 

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

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Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/