Divisions and separations, a summing of consequences,
the brother whose ashes remained forever lost. Two cities
and their survivors’ shame. The loud, kind young man
whose words fell to the restaurant’s floor, unbidden.
What came next in the drift, untoward and misspent,
in the grammar of between? Darkness, suppressed.
Smoke. Pleasure and fear, unclothed.
“The Ecstatics” first appeared here in January 2016. It’s an odd piece, part of a larger sequence that I put on hold several years ago. Perhaps I’ll return to it someday.
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.
always falling to its lowest point
before receding. Water graces us
daily in all its forms – the slowest
drop, the line of ice on the wall,
your breath, so soft and even
in the cool night. But no one,
no thing, can fill the void of
departure. You exhale and turn
away, and the air, with its empty
arms, embraces the space
you’ve left. I feel this daily,
whenever we part. At forty-one
I’ve known you half my life
but have loved you even longer,
through the millennium’s demise
and all that preceded or follows.
The brightest moon for a century to come
is but a shadow in your light.
It’s hard to believe that I wrote “December Moon” over eighteen years ago. Busy with books, work and life, I didn’t write much in the nineties. But this, the last poem of that decade, surfaced a few years ago. The sentiments are as true today as they were then. I am a lucky man.
I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.
With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.
Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.
If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to quiver, but only the tiniest edge emerges. I am nothing, I say. I am voice, I am loss, I am name. I am memory. I am son.
I have fifty-nine years
and no wisdom to show for it.
Never enough. Too much.