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.

 

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.

 

I’ll Turn But Clouds Appear

spaghetti

 

I’ll Turn But Clouds Appear

You gather and disperse and nothing I do salves my hunger.
Where are you, if not here among the roots of dead flowers

or inches below the window’s opening
in the leaf-filtered light. Or spread across

the ceiling, caught in filaments of expelled
hope. Savoring motion, I look up and address the Dog Stars,

longing to catch your attention. But clouds muffle
my words, and instead I turn

to the fragrance of tomato and garlic and spice
wafting into the night. What could bring you back?

Not love. Not wine. Not solitude, nor the sound of my voice.
I spoon out the sauce, cautiously, and wait.

 

* * *

“I’ll Turn but Clouds Appear” first appeared in Bindlestiff.

 

treecloud

 

Night Smoke

DSC_0206


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.

DSC_0094

Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

glacier

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.

armpits

Genealogy Dream


 

Genealogy Dream

To recall but not recall: family, the swift curve
of evolution’s arc. One moment your knuckles
scrape the earth’s surface, and the next you’re
pinpointing mortar fire by satellite phone. Or,
having plowed the field by hand, you fertilize
with human dung (no swords in this hovel),
only to wake into a dream of high rises and
coffee served steaming by a blushing ingenue
who morphs into an uncle, killed in China
on the wrong side of the war, leaving his
sister still mired in grief six decades later
under the Texas sun. On this end of memory’s
ocean, we know poverty and its engendered
disrespect, neighbors’ children warned not
to play with you, for fear that the family’s
lack of nickels would rub off and contaminate,
that your belly’s empty shadow might spread
down the unpaved streets and envelop even
those who don’t need to share a single egg
for dinner. Years later the son will celebrate
his tenth year by suffering the indignity of
a bloody nose and a visit to the principal’s
office, a gift of the sixth grader who would
never again employ “Nip” to disparage
someone, at least not without looking over
his shoulder in fear of small fists and quiet
rage. Which half measures harder? In one
hand, steel. In the other, water. I pour green
tea on rice and recall days I’ve never lived.

 

“Genealogy Dream” was first published in August 2018  in Issue 4 of Lost River literary magazine. Many thanks to editor Leigh Cheak for taking this piece.

 

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.